CL59: Facing Challenges/Recognizing Wins

The demands of curriculum and pull of old routines work together to sap energy for our loftier ambitions for students.

In the cold of winter, how do we press on?

Season 8/Collab Lab 59

The focus for December was Support for Authentic Work. Even with that support, habit and curriculum goals tempt us to ask less of students and less of ourselves. How do we recharge the passion to do more for students and press on towards the spring we know is coming?

As always, you’ll be joined by peers and collaborators from K-12 higher education, industry, and the nonprofit community. If you work with or know of a student who would like to join the discussion please extend the invitation.


5:30 to 6:00 pm Grab something to eat, meet some interesting, passionate people
6:00 to 6:15 pm Welcome and introductions
6:15 to 8:00 pm Let’s talk through some ideas
8:00 to 8:30 pm Wrap up and next steps

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

Featured Participants

Among others, you’ll have a chance to talk with:

PJ Dever — Executive Director for Playworks in Wisconsin

PJ has worked in education for over 13 years with the majority of that work in Milwaukee schools. He has spent time working with students directly, as coach for educators, and a program director. Playworks’ mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. PJ & his team coaches youth, school staff, and out-of-school-time professionals to create great recesses, youth leadership opportunities, and infuse play into their curriculum.

Lana M. Minshew — Assistant Professor, Director of the Human-Centered Design Lab at the Medical College of Wisconsin
Dr. Minshew also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the MCW Pharmacy School. She is a learning scientist, design thinker, educator, and researcher whose
work explores the relationships between educational theory, teaching practices, design thinking, and learning and cognition in health professions education.

Nina Johnston — Program Manager of the Human-Centered Design Lab at the Medical College of Wisconsin
Nina is a design thinker, entrepreneur, and educator. She is a University Innovation Fellow through the d.school at Stanford University and received a Curriculum Innovation Grant and Fellowship through the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where she is a former lecturer. In her free time, Nina loves to read, refinish furniture, garden, and learn new creative skills.


Shannon Smyth — US Soccer Coach Educator, Youth Technical Director

In her role as a Youth Director at North Shore United Soccer Club, you will find Shannon on the field working with both youth and high-performance players ages 3-23 years old. For the past 10 years, she has worked for the US Soccer Federation in the Coaching Education department to help implement methodologies and curriculums created to promote “free play.” Through a holistic approach, coaches are taught to provide a reality-based and experiential learning environment, yielding both wins and losses and how to handle both!

Collab Lab 10 Recap

Building Resilience

Over the course of our Collab Labs this year, we’ve often heard that well crafted, collaborative, authentic learning experience provide students a safe place to fail and recover and through that, build resilience.  At Collab Lab 10, we focused on resilience directly, asking the following questions:

  • What do you see that worries you?
  • What drives that behavior?
  • What strategies do you use to overcome that?

Our discussions ranged from students dealing with trauma to those who’s main source of stress is continual pressure to perform at a high level.

Sheri Marlin from the Waters Foundation was able to join us again, and provided a couple of causal loop diagrams as part of our reflection at the end of the session:

  • Trust/Resilience : Increased levels of trust lead to increased resilience. Increased resilience leads to an increased ability to trust.
  • Environment/Resilience: A supportive environment leads to increased resilience. Increased resilience helps create a more supportive environment for others

As part of the wrap up, Lori Lange from Beloit Memorial High School shared the story of the laundry program she put together to develop the capacities of special ed students and help address a basic need of those that are economically disadvantaged.  It’s a great story of students working together to build resilience. You can read more here: https://beloitschools.org/loads-to-success/

Thanks to all of our participants for joining us for another great evening of discussion. Notes from our breakout groups are below.

Group 1

What do you see that worries you?

  • Wandering halls — unfocused
  • So focused on discipline that there is no self-discipline
  • Focus on trauma misses developing resilience
  • Adults losing their ability to be resilient in front of kids
  • Absence of consequences
  • Compassion fatigue
  • How to teach it?
  • Reactive — social norm is don’t worry until it is too late
  • Kids have to stay in resilience mode constantly
  • Trauma — complexity of trauma/lack of support systems
  • What do you “bounce back” to?
  • Facade of perfection (self told stories)

What drives (resilient) behavior?

  • Resilience is a muscle
  • Adapting
  • Knowing when to use strategies
  • Survival instinct
  • Past failure and recovery
  • Self talk – resilient people have a unique ability to control thoughts, beliefs and attitudes
  • Good support — relationships — trust
  • Mentoring — modeling — role models
  • Infant bonding
  • Coping vs resilience
    • peer pressure
    • fate?
    • social norms
    • unexpected change
  • Reading history
  • Perspective
  • Family stories (immigration)
  • Exposure — expectation — hope — dreaming
  • Knowing healthy ways to cope
  • Sense of constancy
  • Diet — sleep — routine
  • Purpose
  • Faith

What strategies do you use to overcome that?

  • Develop a common understanding of resilience
    • from ambiguous to concrete
  • Self discovery
  • Providing experiences — not teaching “it”
  • Pedagogy of confidence– building on students’ life stories
    • “Learning to Walk” — “trial and learn”
  • Design thinking
    • providing experience
    • healthy risk taking vs risk adverse
  • Catching kids being resilience — name it
  • Creating safe space — language
  • Trusting relationships — time/space
  • Community
    • multi-age interactions
  • Perspectives
    • avoid over managing
    • discovery
    • sharing experiences
  • Modeling mentoring
  • Re-teach coping strategies
  • Remove barriers to healthy coping strategies
  • Brave space vs safe space
  • Accountability/Voice

Group 2

What do you see that worries you?

  • Lack of understanding of level of stress
  • We don’t use failure as a teaching tool
    • “You didn’t fail, you are just not there yet!”
  • Life events – conflict at home/in community
  • Meet people’s basic needs (kids →families)
    • not happening
    • laundry program (in Beloit HS to meet that need)
  • No emergency room for mental health
  • Increased occurrence of trauma among youth
  • Rigidity of the classroom
  • Lack of connection/dependable suppport
  • Teacher burnout
  • Lack of purpose in life

What drives that (worrisome) behavior?

  • Institutional roadblocks
    • teachers can do it anyway with leadership support
  • Erosion of supports
  • Culture
    • preconceived notions
    • us vs them
    • political climate
  • Structural poverty
  • Violence as a taught behavior
  • Food desert
  • State pressure on school districts to perform
  • State testing!
  • Parent expectations
  • incarceration of minority men

What Strategies do you use to overcome that?

  • Bike program
  • Boundary program
  • Mental health clinic in the school (may cause problems at home)
  • Empowerment
    • resources access
    • break through co-dependency
  • Peer examples/role models
  • Student ownership of changing one’s circumstances
  • Separating by gender
    • break through stereotypes (STEM)
  • Trauma informed care at the school
    • reduce expulsion numbers
  • Teach children to rely on each other
  • Build context to relate to in “why” decisions
  • Accommodate different learning styles

Group 3

What do you see that worries you?

  • Lack of motivation (students, parents, teachers)
  • Unhealthy coping — cutting
  • Kindness is getting lost (cooperation/caring)
  • Inability to connect
  • Lack of history/common experience
  • Disconnect from culture
  • Frustration with how to reach kids
    • How to connect
  • Self validation vs validation from others
  • Inequity
  • Lack of caring for kids
  • Sense that no one cares/I am heard
  • Sadness/anxiety
  • Kids don’t move
  • Integration of social/emotional health
  • Relevance– lack experience/context

What drives that (worrisome) behavior?

  • Lack of skills/understanding
  • Parents are lost
  • Use of social media
  • Sitting all day for classes
  • Liability of going out on a limb
  • Teachers lack skills for trauma informed care
  • Teacher/students from different cultures
  • Empathy fatigue
  • Who can I ask for help
  • Teachers are forced to triage
  • Parents don’t value education
  • Too much stress in personal life
  • Survival — all I see is failure
  • Pressure for material goods
  • Divorce — parents are overworked
    • single moms working 2-3 jobs
  • Kids aren’t safe alone
  • Lack of opportunities to fail well
  • Low expectations
  • Parents in survival mode
  • Mismatch between teacher evaluations and what is important (to do for students)
  • Kids pushed through system
  • Grades
  • Fear of talking about emotions

What strategies do you use to overcome that?

  • Mindfulness
  • PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports)
  • 4 days of instruction, 1 day job embed
  • Bring awareness of trauma
  • Awareness of different situations
  • Support from outside to take the load off of teachers
  • Understand why students struggle
  • Use research — let kids experience failure
  • Alternative evaluations
  • Exercise/physical activity
  • Community service
  • Policies adapt to community
  • Self care/set boundaries
    • start early
  • Care of others/empathy
  • Building community
  • Having system support

Collab Lab 10: Building Resilience

Collab Lab 10: Building Resilience

Thinking about how to develop resilience in your students?

You are not alone. Come share ideas with your colleagues at public, private, and charter schools from across greater Milwaukee, as well as some folks outside of K12 who offer an interesting perspective on the topic.

Among others, you’ll get to talk with:

REDgen – Brooke Talbot,Vice President/Director Schools; Barbara Moser, Board Member; Bill Henkle, Director Schools

REDgen is an advocate for mental health and well being of all youth. REDgen was formed out of a duty of care. They foster active community conversations around what it means to live a balanced life with healthy definitions of success.

REDgen’s Schools Group consists of professionals from schools that serve students and families within metro Milwaukee. School administrators, psychologists, nurses, social workers and teachers from public, private and parochial schools serve within the group. Their meetings create a forum to discuss the needs and strengths of our schools in supporting the emotional development of students. Their mission is to support school staff to promote balance and resiliency in the lives of students and families through training, education, and building relationships within the school community.

Donald Byrne –  4th and 5th grade Social Studies, Science, and Health teacher at Humboldt Park School.

Humboldt Park is an MPS K8 School that is home to a student body with close to 20 different primary languages.  Their participation in a United Nations School of International Learning grant. provided an opportunity for students to gain a better under standing of the backgrounds for many of their peers.

Humboldt Park fourth graders researched the UN member countries of the Caribbean and South America, including various aspects of their assigned country’s people, history, geography, cultures, etc. The students also wrote to their country’s United Nations ambassador seeking information about the country and the UN’s roles there. The students then created a large scale display of their learning. At a recent “World’s Fair” culminating event, students from all the UNSIL schools presented their displays.

Sixth grade students focused on in-depth research on issues the UN is addressing in the member countries. Some examples are; clean water, public health, peacekeeping initiatives, human rights, etc. HPS students used a systems thinking approach to look at their country under the direction of middle school social studies teacher Betsy Markwardt.

Susan Lubar Solvang – Growing Minds

Susan Lubar Solvang is President and Founder of Growing Minds, whose mission is to create safe and trusting relationships in the classroom and within the school community, setting the stage for better learning, using SEL tools, primarily mindful awareness practices. Growing Minds currently is focusing on Professional Development such that educators might learn to increase self-awareness of their emotional patterns, choose their responses intentionally, and learn to quiet the emotional ripples of moment-to- moment classroom life rather than creating more waves.


5:30 – 6:00 Grab something to eat and drink, say hello

6:00 – 8:30 Let’s learn from each other

Food and beverage will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!

The Collab Lab will be held in the innovation space at Ward 4, 333 North Plankinton Avenue, Milwaukee, WI.  Space provided courtesy of The Commons.

The Commons

2023-24 Collab Labs

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