School counselor gives kids the tools they need to resolve conflicts without violence

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As we hear of more youth involved violence, there’s a school counselor in Pike Township, that’s working with hundreds of students to equip them with conflict resolution skills. He believes it’s important to start teaching these skills to children as early as kindergarten.

Inside room 403 at Eastbrook Elementary, school counselor Chayzee Smith considers his classroom is a safe place.

“We’ve got to teach our children how to make good decisions, so they can be themselves,” said Smith, “Sometimes in our community things happen and not for the best, but if we can teach our children how to respond with their words, how to come up with good decisions and use their appropriate emotions then they can solve the problem without violence or anything that would cause them conflict with their family or community.”

He’s teaching kindergartners through fifth graders, like Davon Ashmore how to cope and channel their feelings.

“When you teach social and emotional skills, before - when the stakes are low, before anything happens it’s easier for us to remember,” said Smith.

“It’s alright to get upset, but just figure out different ways to not let all of that anger out on other people,” Ashmore added.

His lessons start once the first school bell rings. Students listen to calming music along with their announcements. Smith also teaches box breathing, where students like Ashmore, draw out a box as they take deep breaths.

“In the morning time I know it’s okay not to get upset, so if something at home happened then the music helps me, or any other person calm down,” said Ashmore.

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Activities also give students a chance to explain how they would handle high-risk situations and what they could do differently.

“They just go to what they know, and it might be violence, it might be fighting, it might be aggression, because when we get stressed, we just go to what we know,” Smith explained, “Our goal here at pike is to have them know it.”

Pike Township received a $1.1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Foundation to enhance our counseling programs at the secondary level. The district says the grant has been beneficial and allowed the township to form great partnerships. Thanks to the grant, Pike Township was able to add a counseling assistant at each of the middle schools.

The grant also allowed the district to expand the counseling focus to better meet the social-emotional and college and career readiness needs of students.

“If they’re in it, they know how to communicate to get out of it or they can be the role model,” said Smith, “I tell my students; you don’t have to follow the path that came before you.”

Skills smith believes should taught at every school and every grade level.

“And not for just the kids who get in trouble, but for everybody,” Smith added, “We have to be there early.”

This week marks National School Counselor Week.

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