By Chrystal Smith (USAG Wiesbaden)May 30, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Several helping professionals adjusted their perspectives after attending specialized training aimed at helping military children.
About 30 professionals were present May 3-4 at the Military Child Education Coalition's Transition Counselor Institute Phase I Training to learn of ways to better support military children during transition.
"We're finding that certain assumptions are debunked. We don't have to reinvent the process," said Brenda Coffield, MCEC-Europe project manager, of the advantages gained from bringing together the different helping professionals from within military communities such as AFNORTH, Baumholder, Bitburg, Schweinfurt, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden.
In addition to understanding the effects of deployment and transition, the two-day session focused on increasing the awareness of the common ground shared between educators and military children, exploration of how resilience helps children through periods of transition, understanding the three categories of school transitions -- relationships, academics and finding the way -- and development of methods to support transition.
The session's trainers wasted no time digging into the subject matter, and before the first break at least one had started a list of suggestions to share with colleagues who did not attend.
"I already see a few things that need to be recommended to educators in consideration of transitioning students," said Wisty Battles, chairperson of the Aukamm Elementary School Advisory Committee, who said the session made her more aware of critical elements necessary to help children succeed. "Continuity must be there for a child through the military world or the education world."
While many were taking in the various points of providing hands-on support to military youths, another participant translated what the networking opportunity meant for transitioning military parents.
"Children are in good hands," said Elga Huckins, family readiness support assistant for the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, who said the training allowed her a rare engagement with educators. "Now when new families come to the unit, I help ease anxieties parents may have about their children's education."
As the trainers dug in they took a note from Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg's studies in adolescence and focused on training children to be resilient.
According to Ginsberg, "The goal is not to make a child's life problem-free, but rather to teach them how to be resilient in times of adversity."
The training had a profound impact on Lalita Crenshaw, a preschool teacher at the Wetzel Child Development Center. The curriculum brought to light a common misassumption about the children with whom she works, she said.
"I never even thought of the preschoolers in the transition process," she said, after being enlightened on a child's stages of development and the importance of relationships for children. "I wasn't adequately considering the impact of relationships on preschoolers. I'm putting what I'm learning here into practice."
And like the participants, the MCEC training team was becoming more informed of the nuances of military communities and making notes to append to the training course.
"(Department of Defense Education Activity) is way ahead in dealing with transition issues than the rest of America. So we will share ideas of best practices that we get here," said Julie Coffey, MCEC training instructor, mentioning that she took note that the traditional military community is changing and curriculum may need to be adjusted to address the change.
As the training wrapped up, participants went away with resources and action plans to better help meet the needs of transitioning military children.
MCEC will offer more training opportunities in Europe. Visit www.militarychild.org learn more.