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It Takes A Solomon: Tearing Children Apart in Divorce

child-custodyWhen a couple with children decide that it is time to divorce it is important for them to remember they are not divorcing their children, nor are they divorcing their shared role as parent. The decisions parents make regarding how they will share parenting can lead to depression, anxiety, acting out behaviors, and even  suicide. In divorce and family mediation, couples come to the table more often than not with unresolved conflict regarding what went wrong with the marriage and who is at fault. Many times, by the time a divorcing couple make it to mediation, one of them has already moved on to another relationship or moved to a new location. New problems are added to the equation and must be resolved before getting to what is really important in these mediations: the children.

Split-Decisions

Today more parents are deciding on shared parenting or joint custody. It is also not uncommon for fathers to want a 50/50 arrangement, literally split-custody. With this type of arrangement, the child or children have room and belonging in both parents’ homes, and they alternate either every other day, or 3 days out of four with alternating weekends. While this may seem the equitable thing to do for the parents, it can be quite traumatizing for the children.

When there are unresolved issues brought to the table, this already complicated arrangement can become even worse. For example, if the arrangement is every other day, but the father has moved to a new location that requires a 30-minute drive to pick the child or children up from school on “his” day, it may seem unreasonable for the mother to demand that the children remain in afterschool activities that run well into the evening, thus cutting into the father’s ability to have home time with the children.

Taking Parents Out of the Equation, Makes for Better Parenting

Child-Custody- There are times when a couple have been separated for several months and the other parent is in a new relationship. The primary care parent, the legal address of the children for school purposes, may insist that the new significant other not be allowed to be in the other parent’s home while the children are there. While this may seem to not affect the children, it does indirectly so, because it is sure to create conflict in the parent’s new relationship which is bound to affect time spent with the children.

Other issues that arise in these types of arrangements is that one or both parents may take an entirely regimented attitude toward the arrangement. What this means is that there is limited to no flexibility for special occasions. For example: Tuesday night is Dad’s night with the children. However, it is also the night where he has a business dinner he has been told he must attend. Mom does not agree with the request to switch nights, she has her Tuesday night with “the girls” and Dad will just have to give up the dinner or get a sitter for the children.

For the Sake of the Children

It is impossible to foresee every type of situation that can arise that will negatively impact children with a shared arrangement such as this. Some courts frown upon this arrangement, recognizing that it is disruptive to the child’s routine. However, those that do not, and these types of arrangements are allowed, typically see families back within a year or two for modifications to the arrangements.

It is for these types of situations that some courts require divorcing parents wait year after separation before divorcing and making any legal decisions regarding custody and child support. Other requirements may be that parents attend a divorcing parents’ child custody class. An increasing number of courts require that divorcing parents go through mediation before filing for divorce through the courts.

While all of these are measures created and installed to prevent emotional trauma to the children and to promote a greater sense of stability, it is all still up to the parents to make the arrangements work.

There is generally very little doubt that divorcing parents genuinely love their children, and do genuinely want what is in the child or children’s best interest. However, when one is angry, resentful, or experiencing jealousy it is difficult to see any part of that parent as in the best interest of the children.

Serving the best interest of the children during divorce is difficult, because emotions do get involved. It is important for parents to realize how very vulnerable their children are and that the loss of the sense of family can be quite devastating.

Conclusion

Before taking the issue of divorce and child custody before the courts, parents may benefit from individual, or couple’s counseling expressly geared toward divorcing couples. Getting anger, resentment, and jealousy out of the way, and off the table before attending mediation will save so much heartache for both the parents and the children down the road. It is important not to forget about the children while sorting through marital conflict, it would also benefit the children to see a counselor, an outside party and a safe place to talk about their emotions. Parents should also keep a close watch on their children for warning signs of depression. The best thing a divorcing couple can do for their children is to put their needs first, and let them know that you are not divorcing them, or your shared role as parent.

For a free consultation contact Dr. Burnett-Brown at dr.jacqueline.burnett@gmail.com

C) 470-485-5984

O) 770-694-6124

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Toxic School Environments Make Teachers Sick

Is your workplace a toxic environment? If there is more than one person per week out sick in your department, chances are it is. Before I left teaching one of the primary problems was the inability to take an actual sick day. You know, the kind when you are really sick. If I needed to take a sick day for myself or to attend to my daughter, my ethical compass would steer me away from that decision. My daughter and I ended up in school many times when we were unwell. This did, I admit, cause some resentment towards peers who seemed to take an average of at least two days off per month. While my sick days were building up, so was my stress level.

Cognitively, I understood why there were so many teachers out each week. Yet, I did not see the district or my school in particular doing anything to fix the problem. None of these teachers were bad teachers. It is just that education has gotten to the point that what is actually taught is irrelevant, and as long as students can be trained to pass tests like seals jumping through hoops, we do not need to invest a great deal of time immersing them into complicated plot lines, or delving into characters to determine motive. No, all we have to do is to make sure students are able to accurately identify which key term is associated with a cold passage read, and viola! We have done our jobs.

The sick days were needed because the toxicity of the school environment, of the district expectations which do not at all seem fitting with what I observed at the state or national level. So, the sick days are real because creativity is atrophying at lightning speed for teachers in our schools.

 On any given Friday as many as 25 teachers were out of a total of 290. That is nearly 10% of the teaching staff. By Wednesday each week what I began to call the “guilt” emails were circulating letting teachers know how many had already asked for Friday off. These emails ran up stress levels for many, myself included. You see, when my students came to my class after having at least one sub, and at times two on Friday, they were bored and restless. However, I had an engaging lesson ready to go, or more than likely an essay test or some activity to assess what was learned that week. Yes, even though their course scores did not factor into how well I was doing as a teacher, I knew that how they were doing in my class did matter to them.

 My soldering on ended up getting the better of me, however, because I was not taking time off from an environment that was becoming increasingly toxic. The overall lack of trust between administration and teachers was palpable, and it was permeating what had once been strong bonds between teachers. How can you trust your colleagues when you are having to lose your planning period at least once per week to cover their classes; and sometimes, when you are sick yourself?

 When situations like this occur in schools or other work environments, it is not because the teachers or employees are bad people, or are even irresponsible people. It is because leadership has either brought or introduced a toxin into the environment. When people love and are excited about their jobs, they do not miss work. There was never one meeting with the faculty at large or with individual departments to talk about the illness that was causing the need for sick days. There was no leadership accountability.

 When the work environment is toxic, it is trickle down. Toxic leadership leads to a toxic environment. Teachers need to be allowed their creativity for more than meeting a lettered standard. Good teachers meet those standards every day without having to write them on a board, or put them into a formalized lesson plan.

 If chefs in the finest restaurants were told they all had to cook the same meals on the same days, and that they had to survey restaurant patrons to collect data to determine if they were going to be allowed to be chefs anymore…they would take sick days too.

 One of the reasons for toxicity in the work environment is a lack of true diversity and inclusion. The current climate of many schools is that teachers are supposed to be the same, what I call Stepford Teachers, yet they are to differentiate the “standard fare” for their diverse classrooms so that every student can learn the same thing, and be able to apply it in the same way on a standardized test. That class is an example of a paradox. 

 If teachers cannot be diverse – using their individuality, their uniqueness and creativity – to diversify the lessons organically, then the entire concept of differentiation is missed. Teachers become teachers because they are creative people who have a desire to share their knowledge with others. Their knowledge, not what has been boxed and properly labeled for them.

 

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion Executive Summary for Cobb County School District, GA

Diversity and Community

Diverse Communities are Strong Communities

CCSD: One Goal, One Community Strong

Diversity for the Future of All

2017-2018 Diversity and Inclusion Plan

On Behalf of a Diverse and Growing Community

 

Submitted by

Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, PhD

 

May 17, 2017

 

 

Introduction

Cobb County School District’s Mission Statement Slogan is: One Team, One Goal. Their overall mission statement is Success for All Students. However, there is no sustainable Diversity & Inclusion Plan for Cobb County School District, one of the largest and most racially and culturally diverse districts in the state of GA. Students of color, differing cultures, and those with learning disabilities show the lowest academic performance of all CCSD students. A strong push towards actual inclusion of ALL students, teachers, and staff in an actionable, sustainable, and measureable way will increase student as well as teacher performance throughout the district. Research supports that when education systems adopt a multi-cultural approach to the curriculum, teachers feel more confident and students thrive (1).

PROPOSED SOLUTION

To achieve Cobb County School District’s primary objective of student achievement, there needs to be an implementation of district-wide diversity & inclusion initiatives into the Cobb County School District to include all leadership, teachers, and staff.

A Plan Designed for A Diverse School and Community

The current Diversity and Inclusion statement employed by the district has a permanent residence on the school district’s website. It is not a living instrument, the stated goals are in black and white, but they are not voiced to teachers, students, or parents. Diversity and Inclusion is more than lip service, it is more than annual cultural days and Black History Month. The proposed D&I plan is designed to take a top down approach to the implementation of diversity and inclusion from the district office, to the board members, each school, every teacher, student, parent, volunteer, support staff employed, as well as the community at large.

The Cost of Diversity

  • The district will generate a budget for salaried diversity and inclusion personnel.
  • The district will generate a budget for materials and technology to support D&I training initiatives.
  • The district will generate a budget for social and local media advertising of their D&I initiative.
  • The district will generate a budget for the recruitment and hiring of a diverse leadership, teaching, and support staff.
  • The district will generate a budget for multicultural text books and other academic resources.
  • The district will generate a schedule and budget for teacher professional learning days to be allocated for D&I training outside of normal school days.

The Benefits of Inclusion

Teachers feel more free to teach in an environment where they are free to discuss issues of race, culture, gender, and other differences2. When these are treated as controversial topics, and therefore considered taboo, it stifles teacher as well as student creativity (3). When teachers are teaching under the myth that they should be color (4) politically, and gender blind, they are teaching under oppression as they are disallowed the necessity as well as joy of seeing their students. Teachers are asked to differentiate, but are not allowed to discuss the ways in which we are all different (5), or to advocate for the rights to those differences (6,7).

In addition to culture and race, it is vital that gender, gender identity (8), and learning and physical disabilities9 are interwoven into the vision statement as well as the curriculum.

Infusing multiculturalism into the curriculum is inclusive of all students, as it allows them to react and interact with one another in a real and measurable way. Students of color and differing cultures often feel the curriculum is not designed for them, but rather for their White American counter-parts (10). Students who recognize their history and their culture11 in the curriculum are more motivated to learn (12), than when they do not.

Research supports that inclusive school environments have less turn-over of teachers13, especially teachers of color (14) and when there is less turnover with the faculty, and they are a part of the community, students and parents have more confidence in the schools and district (15).

Diversity and Inclusion: The Responsibility of Every One

The proposed diversity and inclusion initiative is a top down approach that begins with elected officials: District Superintendent, Chris Ragsdale and board members, as well as HR, district support staff, district and local school leadership.

It is only with total buy in from Mr. Ragsdale down that this initiative can work, so that the district slogan: One Team, One Goal: Student Success becomes a reality.

TIMELINES

Milestone 1. Director of D & I hired or appointed within 3 months

Milestone 2. Broad publication of D&I initiatives and revised mission statement within 6 months

Milestone 3. All elected officials – Superintendent and Board members as well as District, Local School Leadership will reflect in word, deed, and their own diversity the D&I initiatives and mission statement within two years.

 

1 Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, Racial Dialogues: A Phenomenological Study of Difficult Dialogues from the Perspective of High School English Teachers (Northcentral University, 2014), http://search.proquest.com/openview/c9f429614a0306c789151930462db1bb/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y.

2 Ibid.

3 Kamilla L. Venner and Steven P. Verney, “Motivational Interviewing: Reduce Student Reluctance and Increase Engagement in Learning Multicultural Concepts,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 46, no. 2 (April 2015): 116–23, doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1037/a0038856.

4 Angie Beeman, “Walk the Walk but Don’t Talk the Talk: The Strategic Use of Color-Blind Ideology in an Interracial Social Movement Organization,” Sociological Forum 30, no. 1 (March 2015): 127–47, doi:10.1111/socf.12148.

5 Derek Cavilla and Belle Wallace, “Thoughts on Access, Differentiation, and Implementation of a Multicultural Curriculum,” Gifted Education International 30, no. 3 (September 1, 2014): 281–87, doi:10.1177/0261429413486576.

6 Burnett-Brown, Racial Dialogues.

7 Steven J. Sandage, Sarah Crabtree, and Maria Schweer, “Differentiation of Self and Social Justice Commitment Mediated by Hope,” Journal of Counseling & Development 92, no. 1 (January 2014): 67–74, doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00131.x.

8 Sara Staley and Bethy Leonardi, “Leaning In to Discomfort: Preparing Literacy Teachers for Gender and Sexual Diversity,” Research in the Teaching of English; Urbana 51, no. 2 (November 2016): 209–29.

9 Deborah L. Voltz and Loucrecia Collins, “Preparing Special Education Administrators for Inclusion in Diverse, Standards-Based Contexts: Beyond the Council for Exceptional Children and the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium,” Teacher Education and Special Education 33, no. 1 (February 1, 2010): 70–82, doi:10.1177/0888406409356676.

10 Venner and Verney, “Motivational Interviewing.”

11 Thomas S. Dee and Emily K. Penner, “The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance,” American Educational Research Journal 54, no. 1 (February 1, 2017): 127–66, doi:10.3102/0002831216677002.

12 Terry Meier, “‘The Brown Face of Hope’: Reading Engagement and African American Boys,” The Reading Teacher 68, no. 5 (February 2015): 335–43, doi:10.1002/trtr.1310.

13 Susan Fairchild et al., “White and Black Teachers’ Job Satisfaction: Does Relational Demography Matter?,” Urban Education 47, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 170–97, doi:10.1177/0042085911429582.

14 Betty Achinstein et al., “Retaining Teachers of Color: A Pressing Problem and a Potential Strategy for ‘Hard-to-Staff’ Schools,” Review of Educational Research 80, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 71–107, doi:10.3102/0034654309355994.

15 Sadaf Naz, Mohammad Majid Mehmood Bagram, and Shahzad Khan, “Impact of Teacher Turn over on Students Motivation, Psyche and Performance,” International Review of Management and Business Research; Peshawar 1, no. 1 (December 2012): 26–46.

14 Betty Achinstein et al., “Retaining Teachers of Color: A Pressing Problem and a Potential Strategy for ‘Hard-to-Staff’ Schools,” Review of Educational Research 80, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 71–107, doi:10.3102/0034654309355994.

15 Sadaf Naz, Mohammad Majid Mehmood Bagram, and Shahzad Khan, “Impact of Teacher Turn over on Students Motivation, Psyche and Performance,” International Review of Management and Business Research; Peshawar 1, no. 1 (December 2012): 26–46.

 

Marital Conflict is Not a Mental Health Disorder

When two people form a union, whether a legal union – such as marriage, or a domestic partnership, there will be conflict. These are the facts of life. How conflict is managed depends upon a number of factors. The most important of which, is how conflict was handled in that person’s family growing up. The other factor is personality of the individuals. The statistical data regarding the success of marriage counseling is inconclusive, but given that more couples are seeking therapy than ever before, and the divorce rate is on the higher, it seems that seeking psychological help for a non-mental health problem may not be the answer.

Studies show that one of the reasons marriage counseling and therapy do not work is that the marriage is treated as if it is a mental disorder. It is also treated as if it is a single entity forgetting that there are two distinct individuals involved in the relationship, ergo, the conflict. Marital conflict does not occur because either or both the parties suffer from some pre-existing mental health disorder. Marital or relationship conflict exists because of the breakdown or non-existence of effective communication and negotiation skills between two opposing forces.

Yes, that is correct. From the moment a couple meets and decides they want to pursue a relationship they are two opposing forces. Each come into the relationship as two different people who want differing things. Even the things they want have varying degrees of differences.

Somehow people entering a marriage, especially first marriages, do so with the belief that when two people love each other, everything will just work out. This is the biggest mistake people make. Many do not talk about important details that are necessary to operate a successful marriage; yet are shocked when conflict arises.

Marriage is a legal union. Romance, religion, and everything else aside, it is a legal union. If a person goes into a business relationship with his or her best friend, it is a legal union. If they do so without a clear understanding of where they want that business to go, and what steps they need to take in order to get there, that business union will fail, and so most likely will the friendship.

According to most research reports, couples do not seek marriage therapy or counseling until they have reached the point of marital dysfunction. Then, the therapy is only as successful as the couple’s desire to make it work, and the willingness to make some changes.

Some couples stay in therapy for years; only to divorce anyhow.

Marital or relationship conflict is not a mental health disorder. It is an inability to resolve conflict.

Mediation is not about fixing anyone or anything, it is about resolving conflict that affects the marriage. When a couple take their marriage to a therapist, the fingers invariably start pointing and the inevitable labeling starts and what was He Said/She Said becomes He’s Crazy/She’s Crazy.

When marriage counseling does not work, people then seek a lawyer. At this point the conflict has risen to a level they now have new things to fight over. Children and property, and whose fault it is. If they cannot come to a resolution, then often a family mediator is hired to help resolve the conflict. Even in mediations where it is clear that divorce is happening, the argument returns to the marital conflict. This is a clear sign that neither of the parties want to divorce, they just feel helpless and unable to live with ongoing conflict.

Most mediations end in resolution, meaning the parties come to an agreement regarding child custody, child support, and marital assets. Many times, they even come to an agreement over why the marriage was broken.

That is something to think about.

Why not seek mediation in the first place? Resolve marital conflict before it becomes divorce and child custody conflict. Let a divorce mediator help you mediate your marital conflict, before it becomes a case for the courts, or a big payday for the lawyers.

Sources

Blinder, Martin G., and Martin Kirschenbaum. “The Technique of Married Couple Group Therapy.” Archives of General Psychiatry 17, no. 1 (July 1, 1967): 44–52. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730250046007.
Dinkmeyer, D., and J. Carlson. “Adlerian Marriage Therapy.” The Family Journal 1, no. 2 (April 1, 1993): 144–49. doi:10.1177/1066480793012005.
Markman, Howard J., and Lane L. Ritchie. “Couples Relationship Education and Couples Therapy: Healthy Marriage or Strange Bedfellows?” Family Process 54, no. 4 (December 2015): 655–71. doi:10.1111/famp.12191.
“Marriage Counseling Statistics.” http://www.MarriageGuardian.com. Accessed May 7, 2017. http://www.marriageguardian.com/marriage-counseling-statistics.html.
“Marriage Counseling Statistics – Marriage | Laws.com.” Accessed May 7, 2017. http://marriage.laws.com/marriage-counseling/marriage-counseling-statistics.

 

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