Alternative education poses a unique challenge, and sometimes unique methods are called for.
Take Two Academy relies heavily on methods created by Boys Town, a nonprofit organization based in Omaha, Neb. Take Two Counselor Stacy Kennedy and instructor Darrah Birth recently attended training in Omaha. Boys Town was originally founded in 1921 by Edward Flanagan. What started as a home for at-risk youth eventually became a nationwide organization.
“If you’re not hearing, you’re not learning,” Kennedy said. “And if behavior is what’s causing you to not hear, ultimately you can’t learn.”
Kennedy said the instructor used the same approach on teachers during training as they would use with students in their classroom.
“She’s taught it for years and it’s second nature,” Kennedy said. “It didn’t feel like you were being so much disciplined as someone was just kind of corrected.”
Kennedy started in 2005 and later trained Birth and other instructors. She said the weeklong training they attended was much more than a refresher, as they learned updated versions of the same methods and got to ask the creators questions directly.
“When I first started at Take Two, one of the teachers I worked with... was a certified trainer,” Kennedy said. “That’s how I received all of my training.”
Take Two incorporates trauma-informed care into its curriculum, taking into account that their students are contending with traumatic experiences or instability that would derail most adults. The principles of trauma-informed care dovetail well with Boys Town’s methods, which focus on healing trauma.
“If you can’t manage behaviors, you can’t have a teachable moment,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to find out for (a student) what it’s going to take to deescalate the situation.”
Traditional schools serve many students at once and trauma-informed care isn’t traditionally used.
“A student who’s been on task every day and is suddenly earning negatives for remaining on task, that sends us an alert,” Birth said. “There’s something going on with that student and we need to intervene and figure out what’s going on to change those behaviors.”
It takes about three weeks to form a habit, good or bad. New students come to Take Two throughout the semester, and it takes staff about three weeks to get students used to the new rules.
“I felt more prepared to come back to my classroom, like I understood it better,” Birth said. “It’s not that she didn’t explain it well, but now I’m teaching to the behaviors of my students better than before.”