Real Talk for Real Teachers with Dr. Becky Bailey and special guest Cynthia Robinson-Rivers

Episode Summary

In the United States, many of us have now lived through a decade of high-stakes testing. This testing costs an average of $1.7 billion annually per state, and students take about 18 major tests each year. The pressure on students, teachers, and schools is intense. Research shows that about 40 percent of students experience test anxiety. Studies also indicate that testing interferes with the student-teacher relationship, which is the basis of all learning.

With this emphasis on testing, the curriculum has narrowed, leaving less time for creativity and recreation. In addition, teachers and administrators often feel that there is no time for social-emotional learning through programs like Conscious Discipline. In reality, Conscious Discipline creates a calm, connected environment that optimizes critical-thinking and learning. It also gives students (and adults) skills that help them manage the pressure of high-stakes testing.

In this episode, Cynthia Robinson-Rivers, Head of School at Van Ness Elementary in Washington D.C., shares how Conscious Discipline has helped her staff and students handle the pressure of testing. Cynthia is an award-winning administrator who has been recognized for her social-emotional learning practices and highly effective leadership. Listen as Cynthia gives practical tips for balancing academics, testing, and social-emotional learning.

Essential Takeaways

  • States have tried to reward and punish schools, teachers, and students for test scores. Research shows that this approach has been ineffective. This emphasizes that rewards and punishments are not the best motivators to achieve our goals.
  • Before teachers can effectively address higher-level thinking and cognition, social-emotional building blocks are essential.
  • To be successful, children need high challenge and low stress. We continually focus on increasing challenges and expectations, but we must also deal with the stress level of both students and teachers.
  • Teacher wellness is vital and has a direct impact on children. The teacher’s state is the default state of the classroom, as children sense and pick up on the emotions of others. For teachers to help children gain calm under pressure, they must first be calm themselves.
  • It’s important to have realistic expectations for children and develop the whole child. For example, create two-year instead of one-year academic plans to take the pressure off children and teachers.
  • For those who think Conscious Discipline is “too easy” on children, explain that other approaches to classroom management and discipline produce short-term results. Conscious Discipline focuses on instilling lifelong skills, inspiring lifelong change, and giving children the ability to manage themselves.

Steps For Tomorrow

  • Take time for physical activity, social-emotional learning, and activities that teach children to self-regulate. Although it may feel like you’re taking time away from academics, remember that learning is much more effective when children are in the executive state. These activities ultimately give you more time during academic blocks.
  • Explain to others that these activities don’t take much time, but the payoff is enormous in terms of children’s ability to function while at school (and enjoy themselves in the process).
  • Examine the research. Studies show that executive functioning skills are far better correlated to future academic success than knowing letters, numbers, and sounds. The most highly sought skills by employers are social-emotional skills, so you are helping students become college and career ready when you focus on these building blocks.

Important Links

Product Mentions

Show Outline

  • :22 What is Conscious Discipline?
  • 1:17 Research on high-stakes testing
  • 3:15 Punishments, rewards, and testing
  • 4:12 Introduction of guest Cynthia Robinson-Rivers
  • 5:11 Van Ness Elementary and Conscious Discipline implementation
  • 8:00 High-stakes testing in Washington D.C.
  • 9:11 Buffering high-stakes testing with social-emotional learning
  • 12:36 Reducing teacher stress
  • 14:30 Systemic side effects of high-stakes testing
  • 15:40 Importance of the whole child and individual student needs
  • 17:55 Cynthia’s approach to social-emotional learning
  • 19:42 Responding to push-back from families
  • 21:30 Success stories
  • 23:28 Three ideas for teachers/administrators to remember amidst the pressure of testing
  • 28:30 What’s Becky celebrating?
  • 29:02 What’s Becky up to?

Thank You for Listening

There are many ways you could have spent this time today, but you chose to spend it with me and I am grateful. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it with others via your favorite social media platforms.

Also, would you consider taking 60-seconds to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes? Your feedback is extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and I love to hear your feedback! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live!

On behalf of our Conscious Discipline family, we wish you well.