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[Weekly Inspiration] Creative Ways to Get Kids to Thrive in School

[Weekly Inspiration] Creative Ways to Get Kids to Thrive in School

For Olympia Della Flora, getting children to thrive in her Ohio school is about more than teaching them how to read and write.

This revelation came to Olympia when a struggling child arrived in their school. A few months into D’s first year of schooling, he began to exhibit signs of extreme anger. He would flip tables, throw things, yell at teachers, and run around and even out of school. His explosive outbursts were often so extreme that the entire school would go into lockdown until D could calm down again.

“And what I quickly and collectively learned with my staff was that this situation was more extreme than anything we had ever been trained for,” she admits in her talk. “Every time that D lashed out, I kept thinking to myself: what did I miss during my principal prep coursework? What am I supposed to do with a kid like D?”

But Olympia, the principal of that Ohio school that was one of the lowest-performing schools in the state, took this as a challenge. She knew where conventional roads would lead her – that D’s privileges would be revoked, that they would repeatedly call his parents, and eventually kick him out – and that expulsion wouldn’t help this student.

Olympia dug deeper into D’s life and discovered the source of his anger: a very unstable home life that left this six-year-old boy as the caretaker for his younger brother. In order to help him cope when he transitioned back into the school day, D created a time-out room in the school where he could go when he felt angry. The more they opened up to D, the more they learned about him and how to help a student with his specific needs not only survive in school; they helped D thrive.

“I know some you are like, ‘It's really not practical to lay on this kind of special treatment for every student,’ but we actually made it happen,” she explains with a smile. “Because once we figured out the tools and tactics that worked for D, our teachers were able to roll that out and use them with other students. We began to proactively address student behavior instead of simply react to it.”

Check out the full TED Talk here, and be sure to stay to see where D’s journey took him. Olympia’s lesson is pretty simple: even small, low-budget changes can accommodate even the most difficult students and give everyone an environment where they can learn and grow.