This School Year Has Been Completely Different

Posted by Brock Morlan on October 17, 2017 in classroom, Comfort corners, schools, stress, trauma category

I am an elementary principal in a medium-sized district in Northern Illinois, in a school that serves roughly 310 students. As the lead principal on the Student Behavior Committee, I see the discipline data from all 8 elementary schools and present this information to our School Board. Along with this information we talk about initiatives that the elementary schools use to try to decrease our behavior referrals.

We are a PBIS school district and we also use a “boxed” program  for our Social and Emotional curriculum, which has helped introduce some important concepts. However, at the beginning of each year, we traditionally have some struggles with students in transition which at times causes behaviors to occur throughout the building.

This school year has been completely different. I had the opportunity to attend a conference with Dr. Soma and Derek Allen, who introduced strategies and resources to help look and respond to our children in a more productive way. I learned about how many students experience trauma and how we should be responding to their needs. I brought this knowledge back to Illinois and worked with each staff member in my building to help them also see students in a new way and respond in a way that best serves that individual student.

Our first phase was to put “Comfort Corners” in every room in the school to allow students time to regulate their emotions (sometimes with guidance from an adult), so they are able to stay within the classroom and so we can look at the whole child and make the process less exclusionary. Last year, we would have students constantly in the office because of “crises” and the social worker or I would talk to the students and build that relationship. Through the TLC/SGLN training, I was able to gain the tools to help and shift that relationship-building to be at the classroom level so students can feel comfortable every day, because there is ALWAYS someone here who cares for them, and the students know that.

It was so important to learn that “Stressed Brains Can’t Learn,” and if we want our students to be successful in all areas of their life, we have to understand their stress and give them opportunities to flourish by using a caring and understanding approach, and by being self-aware enough to recognize our own emotions.

This is my 6th year as an administrator, and it is the first year that I have not received a single classroom behavior referral this far into the school year. I attribute this to the amazing training and opportunities that TLC and SGLN have offered, and their resources that I have used to help my staff members see students with a different lens. I would highly recommend any trainings and certifications that TLC and SGLN offer, as they have made a tremendous impact on my school, the faculty, and a fundamental change in my own belief system. 

Brock Morlan

About Brock Morlan

Brock Morlan is an elementary school principal and educational consultant. Brock has taught multiple grade levels in elementary school and spent two years as the assistant principal in two elementary buildings in the Harlem School District. This is his 4th year as the principal at Marquette Elementary in Machesney Park, Illinois. He is a Certified Trauma Practitioner in Education and also serves as the head principal on the Student Behavior Committee which reports to the school board. Brock graduated from Illinois State University for his undergraduate degree in education and received his master’s degree in school leadership and administration from Olivet Nazarene University. He plans to start his doctorate this year.  Brock is married and has 2 daughters and loves to make music videos with his students. 

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