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RAISING HEALTHY CHILDREN

Educators from Carolina Friends School in Durham explore the relationship between health and education.

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CAROLINA FRIENDS SCHOOL
is an independent Quaker school serving students 3-18. Contact the school at:


4809 Friends School Road
Durham, NC 27705
Telephone: ( 919) 383-6602
www.cfsnc.org.

Ida Trisolni is a facilitator with Peaceful Schools NC and a middle school teacher at Carolina Friends School. With over 25 years of teaching, she believes that building healthy relationships is one of the most powerful teaching tools we can use. Currently, she facilitates workshops on Conflict Resolutions, Discipline to Support Growth and Learning, Advising in the Middle School, The System of Bullying, Giving Students Voice, and Building Healthy Classroom Communities. These workshops are part of the ongoing commitment Carolina Friends School and Peaceful Schools NC have to peace education.

Peaceful Schools NC:
Empowering Students, Improving Education

By Ida Trisolini

At Carter Community Charter School in Durham, every child and adult writes in a gratitude journal each week. From kindergarten, where students can express what they’re grateful for in pictures, all the way to 8th grade, everyone stops what they’re doing to write down a few things they feel grateful for. After hearing the idea from a friend and learning more about the positive effect gratitude can have, LaManda Pryor, the principal, decided to institute this practice for all members of the school community as part of the school’s work to become a Peaceful School. Ms. Pryor’s hope is that by practicing gratitude, students and staff members will experience an increase in resiliency, in their ability to deal with stress, and even an increase in happiness—all of which can impact a student’s ability to learn.

Ida Trisolini

Carter Community Charter School is part of the Peaceful Schools NC, an outreach program of Carolina Friends School centered around the idea that positive relationships are at the heart of good education. It is one in the program’s network of schools hosted by Carolina Friends School, a cohort that also includes Central Park School for Children, The Experiential School of Greensboro, The Exploris School in Raleigh, Hawbridge School in Saxapahaw, and Susie King Taylor Community School in Savannah, GA. These schools, despite their very different demographics, have all made a commitment to doing the hard work necessary to create vibrant, healthy, thriving school climates that support the academic and social-emotional growth of all students.

“Because we have students who come to us with a lot of different struggles—one of the largest of which is poverty—sometimes they feel beaten down,” explains Ms. Pryor. “We want them to know that no matter what, there’s something you can think about to be grateful for.” This practice asks them to “stop for a moment and think about what is good. When students start to think about the positive, they begin to realize they can handle more than they thought.”  

Ms. Pryor and her teachers have noticed that the journals “help the students process through difficult things.” Sometimes students choose to share what they write, and by doing so, often recognize that they are not alone in their struggles. “It helps bring our school community together,” she said. Our students begin to understand “that the community belongs to them. One part of that is understanding what you have and sharing that. The gratitude journals help build that.”

“Even the teachers benefit from practicing gratitude,” Ms. Pryor explains. “The teachers at Carter have found that writing in gratitude journals can help them deal with the stressors inherent in teaching. Even when faced with particular challenges, or at particularly stressful times of year, like during End of Grade testing, teachers have an opportunity to reflect on productive changes they have seen in their students, successes they have helped create, and positive shifts they’ve seen in behaviors.”

Creating Healthy Habits of Mind

At Carter Community Charter, and at every school, the choices we ask students to practice create habits of mind they can carry into their adulthood. By practicing gratitude regularly, students have a chance to reflect on the positive in their lives, which, in turn, helps them appreciate what they do have and what they can control. Practicing gratitude empowers our students to make the choices that will ultimately shape their lives. 
At Peaceful Schools NC, we work to support healthy school climates in which all students can thrive socially and academically—the effects of which positively impact families, local communities, society, and the world. Ms. Pryor, and her faculty at Carter Community Charter School, are doing just that.

You can learn more about Carter Community Charter School, Carolina Friends School, and Peaceful Schools NC, at www.peacefulschoolsnc.org