Susan Loper

Brookwood Elementary School, Brookwood AL

Participate in the Summer Institute for Conscious Discipline in Columbia, SC, to learn the evidence-based, trauma-informed approach to self-regulation and empower students with skills that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

Where I've Been

  • *OR* Hermiston, Oregon
  • Columbia, South Carolina
  • *OR* Arlington, Texas

My Fellowship in Images

We got to meet Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline!
We made some great friends, especially our table-leader, Kristin.
We enjoyed seeing Orlando during our trip, this from up high in a helium balloon
Schubert and Sophie will help us to teach the CD skills to our children
My 4-year-olds are already learning about the brain states with the help of puppets
My classroom safe-place is a great place to learn how to handle big emotions

Igniting Personal and Professional Growth

What changed as a result of your fellowship? Why was it vital for you to pursue this particular opportunity/experience? What learning gaps (yours and/or your students’) were/will be filled as a result of your fellowship?

I have been on a 3 year journey into Conscious Discipline. This is an adult-first model that helps me to stay calm enough to see misbehavior and upset as a signal to teach instead of to punish. By attending the Summer institute for Conscious Discipline (CD), I was able to strengthen my abilities in this area. I am four weeks into the new school year since returning from my training and I am already seeing great results.

How do you see your teaching evolving after your fellowship? Your students’ learning?

Many of the children that I teach (up to 90%) come from homes where they have experienced some form of trauma. By putting connection and teaching of social-emotional skills first, over following rules and being punished when misbehavior occurs; I am seeing great results. These children are behaving in the only way they know how, so my job is to teach them new skills and appropriate ways to behave. The best part is watching the children teach each other and CD skills I have taught them.

What were some unplanned or unexpected experiences or outcomes of your fellowship?

When we wrote the grant, we were watching all of the sessions all over the country fill up before we ever submitted the grant. Three days before we heard that we had been granted the fellowship, the last one filled up. We were extremely disappointed. We contacted everyone we could at the CD office and eventually, they allowed us to attend the CD summer institute in Orlando, FL with Dr. Becky Bailey herself (founder of CD)! It was an amazing surprise.

Impacting Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your students learn differently because of your new knowledge or skills?

My students are already able to identify others and for some, themselves when they are in their "red brain, blue brain or green brain." My students are 4, so we don't use the terms "survival state, emotional state and executive state." However, they know what the brain states mean, and more importantly, they know how to breathe and bring themselves back into their executive state. Once in their executive state, they can learn new things, think clearly and problem solve.

What specific events, projects or deliverables will your students experience related to your fellowship?

I have put a "safe place" into my classroom. This is a space where children can go if they are feeling angry, sad, disappointed, scared, etc. and can take a minute to calm themselves before returning to the classroom activities. I am teaching how to use the safe place during small group instruction to insure that it does get used properly and does not become another corner to play in. Once regulated, they can learn new things effectively (academic and otherwise).

How, specifically, will your fellowship extend beyond your classroom? (e.g. families, school-at-large, afterschool groups, surrounding community, colleagues, etc.)

We have already begun to share our knowledge with the students and their families. We have several parent-student participation events planned where students can share what they are learning with their families and where we can teach new skills to their caregivers. We have parents reading CD children's books to their kids and then reflecting on the skill taught in the story. We have also offered a webinar to our colleagues based on trauma informed brains. These activities will spread CD.

Inspiring the Future

Why was this opportunity transformative for your teaching on a macro-level?

This experience was trans-formative because I am a changed person, which allows me to teach others to handle their upset in more acceptable ways. I am learning to stay calm during moments when students are misbehaving, which I then can download the calm to the students. These are skills that these children will take with them for the rest of their lives.

Why do students benefit from this type of teacher learning?

The students who come from environments of trauma, typically live in their survival or emotional brain states. When one is in such a state, research tells us they cannot think clearly, problem solve, cooperate or learn new things. By teaching the children how to bring themselves into their executive states, I am giving them the gift of lifelong learning, problem solving, cooperating with others, etc. It is huge.

How would you describe to a friend or grant funder the fundamental ways in which your fellowship changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

For me, attending the CD summer institute would have been out of the question without the grant money. The experience has the potential to be life-changing for me and for my students. While it was a lot of work to apply for the grant and complete the requirements, it was well worth the effort. You can't put a price on changing lives for the better.