BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
When Clarkston Community Schools has time off for a major holiday, no student or staff member will have homework over that time frame.
Called “well-being breaks,” these are to assure that students, staff, and families have the opportunity to completely detach themselves from school – physically and mentally – on the days they’re off.
“This is an important part of our commitment to honoring the whole person,” Clarkston Superintendent Shawn Ryan said in an email to the Clarkston community. “Leader in Me fans call this ‘sharpening the saw.’ In other words, we know our students and staff have lives outside of school, and guess what? We want them to enjoy those healthy, balanced lives.
“Our students’ lives outside of school are certainly complex, and unfortunately, not always positive.”
Two weeks ago, the entire CCS staff was invited to engage in professional learning with Dr. Jim Henry, co-founder and project director for the Western Michigan University Children’s Trauma Assessment Center.
The partnership with Dr. Henry was established about three years ago and has forever shaped the district’s learning and practices, said Ryan.
“In his talk on Monday (Nov. 4), Dr. Henry shared the flaws of a traditional paradigm, which tends to be academic-focused and ‘diagnostic’ and demonstrated how a trauma-informed model recognizes that childhood trauma isn’t left at the door when students come to school,” Ryan said. “We know that adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs) and toxic stress can have lasting effects on behavior and health.”
Additionally, Ryan quoted Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, saying, “though no one who’s experienced significant adversity (or many ACEs) is irreparably damaged, we need to acknowledge trauma’s effects on their lives. By reducing families’ sources of stress, providing children and adults with responsive relationships, and strengthening the core life skills we all need to adapt and thrive, we can prevent and counteract lasting harm.”
“Our educators and counselors have learned how to help our students build resiliency and thrive by seeing beyond behaviors to truly understanding the different needs our students present,” said Ryan. “This work gives me a glimpse of a stronger school district and community. I know without a doubt that we have the right people and partners to make that happen.”
Thanksgiving break – the next “well-being break” – runs Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Friday, Nov. 29, with all students returning to school on Monday, Dec. 2.