IUSD extends resources through new program

Graphic+via+Una

Graphic via Una

Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) has implemented #RSPCT, a new program to further provide teacher and student support.

#RSPCT (restorative practices, social-emotional learning, positive behavior interventions and supports, calm classroom/mindfulness and trauma-informed practices) which aims to establish a positive school climate, was started and introduced by Marie Williams, IUSD’s Teacher on Special Assignment.

“The idea [for #RSPCT] is that schools will integrate best practices they use in every classroom every day,” Williams said. “The critical feature is that we are building and healing relationships through restorative practices, teaching important SEL (social-emotional) skills, [and] we do it with consistency through routines and procedures, and we increase student well-being by teaching mindfulness with a trauma-informed lens.”

Williams leads and teaches each school’s SEL coach and #RSPCT coordinator during monthly seminars. The coordinators then relay the information to other teachers in their respective schools. English teacher and SEL coach Kevin Kane is the coordinator for Irvine High School.

“We do have initiatives like Suicide Prevention Week, Hope Squad, and Speak Up, We Care,” Kane said. “#RSPCT is really putting a name to those programs we already have and unifies it under one cause or committee.”

Having evolved from PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), the program is designed to provide teachers resources and skills, or various best practices, to help establish a positive relationship between teachers and students.

“Mr. Kane gave out practical strategies for our teachers at the beginning of the school year,” Assistant Principal Chris Nguyen said. “[He said] why don’t you stand in front of your classroom before every period and greet every student as they come in to build that positive relationship?”

While the program’s main focus is to provide teachers with various resources to further improve the learning environment, the program also aims to support students’ mental health.

“When we create a culture of collective responsibility, everyone is taking care of everyone,” Williams said. “We build skills in an environment where everyone feels a sincere sense of belonging…this is the root of mental health. And when students show they need more support, we have a system set up at different levels of intensity so everyone gets what they need.”

With the return to in-person learning, many returning students detail the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their mental health.

“COVID-19 has definitely negatively affected my mental health,” junior Hope Wellikson said. “It was very hard to not be able to socialize and see my friends and family for a long time. [Additionally] being stuck in the house staring at a screen all day was hard since there were very few ways to cope with the stress of being stuck inside.”

#RSPCT’s goals hope to provide some support to students whose mental health have been affected by the pandemic.

“We’ve had half a year of students feeling disconnected both from their school and from each other,” Kane said. “#RSPCT is really trying to make students all feel connected and welcome.”

Currently, Williams is collaborating with colleagues within California and looking to present and share her work at conferences. For more information about #RSPCT, visit this website.