Catherine Hall Primary and Infant is the latest in a series of schools to benefit from an initiative by the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) III, aimed at building the capacity of school administrators, guidance counsellors and academic staff to offer support to behaviourally challenged students.
Forty-three members of staff from the Montego Bay-based institution, including the Principal, Vice Principal and the schools’ Dean of Discipline, turned out for a workshop geared at the development of cognitive skills and curbing of at-risk behaviour on Thursday (October, 12) at the Sea Garden Hotel in the second city.
Psychological Services Coordinator with the CSJP III, Dr. Melva Spence, said the programme, which started in 2016, came about out of a realisation that there was a high number of referrals to the Psychological Services Unit by schools, due to poor behaviour of students. It was also a response to increasing number of incidents of violence in schools.
“The referrals were overwhelming and when we do the assessment with them, many of the times it’s due to grief or anxiety from separation, trauma or depression – which display itself as misbehaviour,” she said.
Dr. Spence said Thursday’s workshop focused on helping teachers and administrators understand how to support students in expressing emotions and how to reflect on the basis for their actions.
“I think the teachers must take more time to process what is going on with the children, as [sometimes] the child doesn’t necessarily want to misbehave or to fight but the emotions that they are feeling, they are not processing it properly and so it comes out that way. So that’s what we want to achieve, [an environment] where teachers are better able to interact with the students, understand what they are going through and assist them,” she explained.
CSJP III Psychologist, Stacey-Anne Whittingham-Tucker, said the hope is that the training for the teachers will impact the wider school community.
Social Worker with CSJP Western, Desmond Stewart, echoed this hope, noting that primary schools have been targeted to allow teachers to help students receive intervention early.
“Some of the teachers say that they were not aware some of the behaviours displayed by students were due to mental challenges and knowing this, staff will now be able to approach it in a different way and they are appreciative of it. We are happy we can help in that way as we understand that if these problems are not solved, it can lead to students becoming dysfunctional members of society,” he said.
Principal of Catherine Hall Primary and Infant School, Dudley James, described the session as informative and engaging.
“The information that we gleaned from the workshop will be quite useful in the classroom, as it looks at the child’s whole cognitive development and at how best we can look at the child’s thought processes and see what strategies we can apply to curtail certain behaviours. For me it is a very important workshop,” he said.
Representatives from the Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Restorative Justice Unit also delivered presentations to the participants, featuring ways in which schools can access services.