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A Letter to Dr. Gentry Part #1

A letter to Dr. Gentry from Rebecca Leimkuehler,

Principal of Holiday Park School

Over the last few months I have written dozens of emails to you, all stored in my drafts, concerning work. They were never sent as I am just not clear on the direction. At the end of the day, for me, this work starts, and ends, with the adults serving the kids. I am going to throw some stuff at you right now, unfiltered, to give you an idea of my mindset right now.

  1. In the United States, by law, we provide free public education to our children. We must send our children to school. In communities of poverty, there is little school choice. The single purpose of schools, today, is to educate students to content mastery. The accountability to content is extreme. The outcome of high test scores is all that we really measure. High stakes. For the teacher, test scores, at mastery, are what counts on their evaluation. It’s the perfect storm. We send our little ones to school, they go to class, and the door closes. This is where the problem starts. The teacher has up to 30 – 35 children with an ultimate goal of content mastery. There is little time for social or emotional learning. We must get to content. The pressure is high. The non-compliant children will feel the wrath of an unregulated adult who has one goal in mind, content mastery.
  2. We, as educators, need to set the priority on the whole child not just the test scores. Basically, they are precious children. They need to been seen in the perfection that they are. Then we can teach them as they are ready to learn.
  3. Most adults in education have little to no psycho education. Some, most, unfortunately, have paid no attention to their own triggers or self-regulation. Power positions, in this environment, can cause adult personality behavioral outcomes in adults that are very harmful to children.
  4. With grace, we can tackle this with our teachers, but it is very hard work. And in Arizona very lonely work.
  5. The ACE study gave me the scientific evidence to back up what I already knew. There are no bad children. Their behavior does not define them.
  6. Most of us, not in the mental health industry, consider trauma very bad stuff. We spend our lives trying to save our family from experiencing trauma. We are good people. Trauma only happens to good people by happenstance. So, the word, trauma, can be a trigger. This is where I give the ACE study ultimate props, adverse conditions. We all have those. Even “good” families.
  7. There is really very little support for this work in schools in Arizona. There is a lot of talk, but not a lot of support. You and Arizona Trauma Institute are the only people and/or organizations that actually “did” something. Everything else costs money and is for sale.
  8. I have, through my work, been inside hundreds of classrooms. We have great teachers. Some seem super human 🙂 However, all are human. The stories that teachers tell can be overheard in school lounges across America. How they talk about some children is unacceptable. They do not know better. The conversations seem the norm and then become so.
  9. I have talked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children over the last 19 years. The one central theme is this, they just want someone to see them. See the change in personality, dress, mood, make-up, eating habits, even the look on their faces. Just see them. Miracles happen there.

Rebecca Leimkuehler
Principal, Holiday Park

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