Standing before a collection of community members and educators, Ashley Godwin began asking the group what Ardmore can do to make a change.
The questions were part of a community discussion prompted by a screening of “Paper Tigers,” a documentary surrounding the events at Lincoln Alternative School in Walla Walla, Wash. The screening is part of an initiative by the Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaboration and Partners in Education to stir conversations about mental health in schools and the community.
“This is not a school problem,” Godwin, the ABHC executive director, said. “We need to humanize people and see them as humans, not problems.”
The film presents an alternative school’s different approach to discipline and behavioral issues in students. The school, Lincoln Alternative School, found great success in its approach, which is heavily influenced by the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. The study looks at traumatic childhood experiences and toxic stress and how those experiences affect behavior later in life.
Teachers and educators in the screening sounded off during a discussion portion of the event following the showing of the film. Discussion questions surrounded themes of the film and how those themes can be approached on a local level.
“We cannot do school the way it’s been done for years and years,” Cindy Huddleston, Ardmore Middle School principal, said. “We have to be willing to think outside the box.”
Many educators said the teaching profession has evolved in recent decades, with more and more students going to teachers with issues going on at home and at school.
“Teachers have always been caring and teachers have always looked after their students,” John Black, AMS assistant principal, said. “What has changed is what is demanded from that teacher.
“We’ve become more counselors than anything.”
Lindsay Maurice-Walker, Ardmore High School HealthCorps coordinator, works with students daily on nutrition, healthy living and mental health. Maurice-Walker said the film’s primary characters aren’t unlike many students she talks to on a daily basis and the Ardmore isn’t immune to the challenges and struggles presented in the film.
“They need someone that cares,” she said of students. “I want them to leave here and do something about it and be the change.”
Godwin encouraged attendees of the event to get involved in ABHC’s efforts in Ardmore and to volunteer in making a meaningful change in Ardmore. Ardmore is evolving, like the rest of the world, and community members, stakeholders and educators, Godwin said, need to work to meet the needs of the community.