For the past five years, much of staff development at VDS has been focused on applying the latest research in brain-based educational strategies. Brain science teaches us that behavior is not categorized by being good or bad; it is a question of being healthy or unhealthy. We believe that to effectively manage behavior and improve learning, all staff members need to have a thorough understanding of how the brain operates. We have applied this knowledge in all area of management within the school, including classroom instruction, student management, and building policies and procedures. Based on this research with strive to:
Develop an environment focused on success. Many school focus on a system of rules and consequences to manage student behavior. Rules are presented during the first days of school, students take the rules home to be signed the parent, and consequences are delivered based upon student actions. It is the avoidance of consequences – detentions, suspensions, or expulsions that are used to establish compliance to school authority. VDS has some of the same punitive consequences, but because research tells us that all people are motivated by a will to succeed, we aggressively teach procedures and strategies that will lead to student success and reinforce the students when appropriate behaviors occur. Much like a coach, we teach, practice, and reinforce the skills for success in school and in life.
Teach students how the brain works. If students understand how the brain works, they can gain greater control over their personal growth. Therefore, we teach all students how the brain works. The student will learn where emotions and thoughts come from; how the body reacts to stress and threats; and how life choices of nutrition, exercise, and sleep can profoundly impact their functioning.
Teach tools for resiliency. Through brain-based science, researchers have identified several factors and circumstances that lead to strength and resiliency. Many of the factors that support resiliency are taught within each classroom as part of our Social Assets Curriculum. Through this curriculum, students are taught skill such as ways to establish positive relations, how to problem solve in social settings, short-term and long term planning, and how to develop a healthy sense of humor.
Much of what we know and do in the brain-based education came through our relationship with the nationally recognized author and educator Horacio Sanchez. Over the last four years, Mr. Sanchez has visited the school to work with faculty and staff to apply his research and concepts. The Maladaptive Council (Academy of Science) recognizes him as a leading authority in emotional disorders and resiliency. His approaches are not only based on sound scientific research but have been the foundations of his award-winning mental health and educational programs. Horacio Sanchez has been a teacher, school administrator, Mental Health Director and Consultant to the Department of Education in NC, PA, and other states. Horacio’s diverse education and background has helped him to merge research, science, and practice. His new book, The Education Revolution: How to Apply Brain Science to Improve Instruction and School Climate, provides a blueprint to help us close the achievement gap.