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December 20, 2018

Team Terrific—Creating a Community of Learners

I facilitated a Mind in the Making workshop with Joan Lawrence, where the participants came from diverse backgrounds with many of them in recovery. Some participants were homeless, suffering from the effects of domestic violence and abuse; others were recovering from Substance Use Disorder, frequently a precursor to criminal convictions and time served. Many participants reported to rarely being available to mentor and actively parent their children due to a variety of circumstances.

The Mind in the Making workshop guided participants through the examination of the seven essential life skills and taught them how to encourage the development of these skills in their children. The Seven Essential Life Skills are based on empirical research that demonstrates that these skills can be encouraged and developed within children, ultimately offering them opportunities to be more successful in school and throughout their life.

During the “Perspective Taking” module, Sandra (not her real name) shared with the group that she grew up believing that her way was the only way to resolve personal and interpersonal conflicts. Having grown up believing her mother’s allegations that she was stupid and would not amount to anything, she frequently responded with hostility and aggression when she didn’t get her way, or others disagreed. As a kid, I was told that I was slow and not capable of learning. She shared that she believed what her mother told her and subsequently didn’t put forth any effort to do well in school. She quit school in her early teens and turned to using drugs and alcohol, which led to criminal charges and the loss of custody of her two children. She reported that aggression, deceit, and lies became commonplace, and the only way she knew how to resolve conflicts.

Other members of the Mind in the Making workshop shared that their use of alcohol and drugs began during early adolescence and interfered with their ability to appropriately and proactively deal with interpersonal relationships. John (not his real name) expressed that running the streets and “trying to get mine” was part of his daily routine and necessary to help his family obtain the basic needs of clothing, food, and shelter. The son of a woman who was also addicted to alcohol and drugs, John reported that he’d never considered perspective taking, focus and self-control or even the appropriate ways to communicate with others. John was released from prison after more than 20 years and reported that he didn’t learn the appropriate life skills while in prison and felt like he’s learning a foreign language. He expressed with optimism that learning the importance of the executive functions and the seven essential life skills will improve his relationship with his grown children, grandchildren, and his chances of not returning to prison.

Two women with infants attended the workshop sessions with their kids. Both of their children were removed from their care, and they hoped to improve their abilities to be good mothers and regain custody. Both women expressed that they planned to share their certificate of completion with their caseworkers.

The presence of the infants contributed nicely to the review of the seven essential life skills in the lives of children. The participants were able to relate and practice skills such as communicating with children versus talking at children. The participants were provided with the opportunity to observe the behaviors of the infants and test the voice recognition memory presented in the Charles Nelson video.

I’d like to thank the Bradenton Salvation Army, particularly Ms. Lynn Rosa for allowing Joan and I to conduct the workshop at their facility. I’d also like to thank Learn to Fish Recovery Center for Women, particularly Ms. Rachel Conville for coordinating and supporting the delivery of this workshop to their clients, and to The Patterson Foundation who continues to generously sponsor the delivery of these workshops demonstrating their commitment to creating a community of learners.

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