Two Norwegian psychologists, Kaja Johanessen and Ann-Karin Nielsen Bakken from the Østbytunet Children’s Psychiatric Center, were finally able to come to visit us in early September after several postponement due to a coronavirus pandemic. We have been cooperating with both of them for a long time and were in mutual close contact during a two-year training on working with children with demanding behavior. During that time, we have visited the Norwegian training center.
The aim of their visit was mainly two events – a final two-day training for participants and a public seminar for students of the Faculty of Education in Prague, teachers and others interested in working with children with demanding behavior.
Final two-day training meeting
The participants of the training were already very much looking forward to a personal meeting with the lecturers. The subject of the final block was, among other things, the practice of de-escalation techniques that can be used in contact with a disturbed child. This part of the training was based on modeling different situations and personal experiences of the participants. They had the opportunity to try, for example, appropriate procedures for approaching a child and interrupting the ongoing conflict between children at the school desk. At the end of the two-day meeting, we jointly planned the next steps in the project – especially how and where the newly created educational program for teachers focused on working with children with demanding behavior will be piloted.
Public seminar at the Faculty of Education
The public seminar was intended not only for students of the faculty, but also for all pedagogical staff and social workers working with children and their families. The two-hour seminar was led by Ann-Karin Nielsen Bakken. Among other things, she introduced various de-escalation and regulation techniques that social and pedagogical staff can use to calm down in classrooms and other places where they work with children.
During the seminar, the lecturer presented examples of two children with traumatic negative experiences. One of them manifested itself more externalized (disturbing, it was aggressive), the other internalized (it seemed calm, but did not concentrate and lost contact with the environment). She then described how these children manifest themselves in five phases of stress activation: Calm – Vigilance – Anxiety – Fear – Fright.
In the end, they practically showed how to approach an upset child and how to calm him down using various de-escalation techniques. There was a lot of interest in the seminar, it was attended by several dozen students. After the presentation, a few questions followed.
If you were unable to attend this seminar, you can watch a video here:
We are very happy that, in addition to the training time, we managed to meet both Norwegian colleagues less formally. On Wednesday evening, we went for a short walk around Prague with them and ended it with a dinner together. Meetings and conversations with them are always very inspiring and beneficial for us. So we were very happy that there was room for them in their busy two-day program. In addition to meeting us, Kaja and Ann-Karin also met two journalists here. You will soon be able to read interviews with them in two Czech media. We will then definitely introduce you both here on our website and on social networks.
Both seminars were organized within the project Working with Children with Problem Behavior in the School Environment, funded by EEA Funds 2014-2021. We thank the House of Foreign Cooperation – DZS for their support.
On February 22, 2021, we organized a public webinar How to reduce stress – and help yourself to maintain inner peace (even during the COVID-19 pandemic) using knowledge about the functioning of the brain. Webinar was lectured by Mgr. Kristýna Farkašová, a participant in our training program focused on supporting of children’s mental health and the education of pupils with challenging behavior.
In times of pandemic, mental health care is essential, so the first webinar focused on the topic of maintaining inner peace in difficult times.
The first block started with the topic of stress and was focused on answering following questions: How we behave in stressful moments? Is there any “good” level of stress? What helps us to become resilient, instead of sensitive and more fragile? Whether we have the opportunity to choose our inner peace and know what supports it and what destroys it?
Several times during the webinar, participants were offered a safe space to think about the following questions: What is helping them at this time? When do they feel calm and rest? What little things help them to find balance each day? What do they need to remember to feel well in the world? We are important, it is impossible to skip our own feelings and focus only on of children.
“One of the ideas I learnt from our Norwegian colleagues is Bruce D. Perry’s reflection on the five states of mind. It shows how we can practically feel and act in the various states of our mind, how our possibilities to think freely, to think ahead gradually narrow. How much we need to understand in what state of mind the person / child we are working with is. So we don’t miss him/her and work with him/her according to actual state. Gradually, to help him/her to get through states of high activation back to calmness. And we need to keep ourselves calm so that we can help others find their peace thanks to our simple calm presence, ”said the lecturer.
The webinar also provided participants with practical tips on how to take care of their body, how to plan the day, so they could stick to the structure. The webinar received a lot of positive feedback. And although it was informative, the participants stated that they had rested during the event. Perhaps also because the intention was to strengthen the participants’ awareness that while we cannot influence how a pandemic will develop, we can influence a lot in terms of our own mood, our own balance and our own calmness.
On Friday, January 22, 2021, we presented the principles of PBIS at the online workshop for The Success of Every Student online fair. The workshop was well received and thanks to this opportunity we are establishing cooperation with other actors in education. You can find the presentation of our workshop G. Pozitivní podpora chování žáků ve školách, together with presentations of other workshops here.
The presentation is designed to provide as much information as possible in a comprehensible form, thus enabling teachers and parents to understand the structure and content of the PBIS framework. We are still working intensively on the translation and creation of other materials that will help schools implement elements of the PBIS preventive level with a minimum need for external consultations in the future. However, we still recommend that schools contact our team if they are interested in implementing PBIS. “We are very concerned about the sustainability and high effectiveness of behavior support in Czech schools and we will always try to find the most suitable form of support for the leadership and teachers of individual schools,” says Anna Kubíčková, coordinator of the School Helps Vulnerable Children project.
We would like to thank the Committee of Good Will – Olga Havel Foundation, Active Citizens Fund, and the Scout Institute for long-term support of the project School Helps Vulnerable Children, which in this difficult situation offers a helping hand to schools and children who are increasingly affected by current measures.
We also thank our pilot schools for their tireless efforts and motivation to support all students not only on the educational level, but also on the personal, social, and emotional level.