Newly hired LAUSD teachers have become students for the week as they learn some unusual strategies to accommodate students’ growing needs for social and emotional support.
The Cedars-Sinai Psychological Training Center is a providing a free, weeklong summer training program to prepare teachers for providing mental health support in the classroom.
"Kids come to school with so much baggage today," said Suzanne Silverstein, founding director of the Psychological Trauma Center. "Children of divorce, we have children with an incarcerated parent, we have a lot of loss and grief, there’s violence, homelessness, oh my heavens."
Teachers are learning to practice mindfulness using ancient tools including a talking stick, which promotes speaking from the heart, and singing bowls, which emit vibrations and are meant to be calming.
"The kids love it, when they hear the sound, it melts them," Silverstein said. "There's something very healing about it."
Special needs teacher Tracy McKisick became emotional when she spoke about her experience with a student whose classroom behavior was affected by a difficult home life.
"He'd disrupt the class, I’d have to clear the classroom," McKisick said. "But he was the sweetest guy, he'd be sorry this behavior happened."
Though the use of talking sticks and singing bowls may be new techniques, the Psychological Training Center has provided mental health programs for students and teachers for years.
The LAUSD Share and Care mental health services program was started by the center more than 20 years ago, and now provides group counseling sessions meant to teach students coping skills and improved classroom behavior in 28 Los Angeles schools.