August 2010

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Sobesky Academy principal Connie Sperberg oversees a highly trained staff of experienced professional and paraprofessional teachers who provide emotional, behavioral and academic support to students in grades 1-12. Sperberg discovered the BrainWise Program through other teachers in the district. Enthusiastic about the compatibility of the BrainWise curriculum with Sobesky’s program, and encouraged that BrainWise was being taught in other Jefferson County Public Schools, Sperberg purchased curricula for all Sobesky teachers and therapists. Training was provided for the school’s faculty and staff.

Teachers and therapists offered a number of suggestions to implement the BrainWise curriculum at the school, including introducing a new BrainWise concept to the students each Monday. They also discussed using BrainWise terms daily by integrating the 10 Wise Ways into classroom lessons and the school culture, and talked about ways to involve parents. The faculty demonstrated an understanding of the concepts by applying the 10 Wise Ways to examples in current events and articles on challenging behaviors of students.

Questions included, “What is the best way to teach the program? Do you teach each concept until you are confident the students know it, or do you present all 10 Wise Ways and then have students practice and use them?” BrainWise founder and director Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry acknowledged that teachers use different approaches, but supported giving students an overview of all the concepts first. “Many teachable moments involve higher level thinking skills, and it is important that the student is familiar with all the Wise Ways so he or she can learn how to assess and analyze a problem,” she said.

The school’s commitment to teaching the program with fidelity will have a positive impact on Sobesky students. “When there is support from the top, and a plan in place to reinforce BrainWise skills and terminology on a regular basis, we have seen great results,” Dr. Barry said.

Parental participation is a vital component of the Sobesky program’s success. The school looks for parent involvement through parent support groups, participation in counseling, and through support of the educational and therapeutic program. Parents will be invited to help implement the BrainWise curricula as well. Sperberg plans to introduce BrainWise at parent orientation; then continue to keep parents involved through school newsletters and student homework assignments.

As Sobesky students work to develop skills that will allow them to be successful learners, BrainWise can play an integral part in their emotional and behavioral growth. According to Dr. Barry, “BrainWise is a perfect fit for schools that emphasize emotional and behavioral development. It teaches about the brain, and shows students how positive behaviors build brain connections, helping them learn to stop and think before they react.