Students will be back in classes on Wednesday, but there was already learning at the Canajoharie Central School District.
Faculty and staff from all of the district’s schools came together to prepare for the 2017-18 school year at the annual Superintendent’s Conference Day on Tuesday.
Beyond discussion about the traditional academic disciplines, the district invited guest speakers Donna Porter and DJ Batiste to share their powerful story about teacher-student social interaction and conflict resolution in the presentation, “Relationships Matter,” with educators in the Canajoharie schools.
Porter was Batiste’s public speaking teacher at Picayune High School in Mississippi when they first met in 2010. Batiste was the son of teenage parents, the leader of a violent gang, and a troubled student. Through one-on-one work, mentoring, compassion, and a practice called, “conscious discipline,” Porter turned Batiste around. The are now a motivational speaking pair that tour the country speaking to educators on how to work with students not just academically, but socially and emotionally. Their journey was featured on the CBS Evening News in 2012.
The practice of conscious discipline – a classroom management technique with a social-emotional curriculum that is based on brain and child development research – is something that Canajoharie teachers will take into the classroom this academic year.
“It is about neuroplasticity,” Batiste said. “You can rewire the brain. You just need to stick to it and have someone focus on what we want them to do or be more of. Eventually the brain starts to rewire itself and they will get there.”
Porter and Batiste shared a series of social and teacher-student interaction axioms through lectures and role playing with Canajoharie teachers on Tuesday.
“Anytime there is a conflict with a student, it involves everyone in the classroom,” Porter said. “Yes, we teach our academic disciplines, but we are also always teaching social and emotional disciplines. Life skills are important. It isn’t “my” classroom, it is “our” classroom. I always cultivate a place where you belong and are safe.”
“Composure is a big part. As a boxer, you need to bring your aggression to work, that is how you get paid. If you are a football player, you need to bring your aggression to work that is how you get paid. As a teacher you have to leave that aggression at home or you will never win,” Batiste said in an hour-long morning presentation before speaking with teachers in smaller groups later in the day. “Tomorrow [on the first day of school], there are going to be some ‘DJs’ here in school. I already made it, find the ‘DJs’ here and help them.”
Every school in the Canajoharie school district has a social/emotion mentorship plan for its teachers and students: East Hill Elementary has a variety of aspects of “conscious discipline,” integrated with traditional instruction, the middle school has the “Middle School 2.0” program, and the high school is launching a, “What you think about, you bring about,” campaign this academic year.
Beyond the speakers and meeting with district and building administrators, teachers also put the finishing touches on their classrooms for the first day of school on Wednesday, September 6.
Batiste will speak at an assembly for high schoolers on Wednesday and the district has a series of team-building exercises scheduled for students throughout the district.