For the past five years, a significant portion of our staff development has 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 rather, 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 areas of school management within the school, including classroom instruction, student management, and building policies and procedures.
Many schools focus on a punitive 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 by parents, and consequences are delivered based upon student actions. In these schools, it is the avoidance of consequences – detentions, suspensions, or expulsions that are used to establish compliance with the school authority. Research tells us that all people are motivated by a will to succeed. So while VDS employs some of these same punitive consequences, we actively teach procedures and strategies that will lead to student success and reinforce the students when appropriate behaviors occur.
If students understand how the brain works, they can gain greater control over their personal growth. Therefore, we teach all of our students how the brain works. They learn where emotions and thoughts come from, how the body reacts to stress and threats, and how lifestyle choices involving nutrition, exercise, and sleep can profoundly impact their functioning.
Through brain-based science, researchers have identified factors and circumstances that lead to strength and resilience. Many of the factors that support resilience are taught within each classroom as part of our Social Assets Curriculum. There, students are taught skills 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.