Lori Madrid: Helping Students the Six Seconds’ Way
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“I love conflict!” Lori Madrid is quick to laugh at her own statement. She reflects on her role as the first person students are sent to when they are in trouble. Lori is a social worker in an Arizona middle school. “I have a vision that what I do is important everyday. It doesn’t become overwhelming for me. I am ready for the next challenge.”
And the challenges at her school are constant. Take Jimmy. He had developed a habit of being disrespectful and unkind. He was often in detention for being mean to other kids. At his old school, he was used to getting in trouble, and had built up a tough-guy persona to cover the feeling that he was a mess-up, a failure. This was reenforced every time he saw his report card full of F’s.
Then he entered Lori’s afterschool program called “Skills for Success”. Success wasn’t a word he applied to himself. Lori Madrid taught Jimmy dozens of new words to describe how he was feeling, well beyond mad or frustrated. He got to draw pictures about the conflicts in his life and dreams about what he wanted to be. He learned about the Six Seconds’ skills of know yourself, choose yourself, and give yourself and that everyone matters, including him. One day, when Jimmy overheard the smallest kid in the school saying he didn’t want to hang up his drawing because it was “just a scribble”, he leaned over and said, “Post it. Your scribble matters.”
Another group of students at Lori’s school were failing math. Some because they lacked English skills, or were too afraid to talk to their teachers. Rather than give them extra tutoring in math, Lori Madrid decided to put Six Seconds-style emotional intelligence concepts to work and see if it helped bring up scores and set students up for success.
Lori had taken Six Seconds EQ-Educator and EQ Tools for Education courses and learned to use the SEI-YV assessment tools to measure emotional intelligence, but it took a while to find a way to put it to work in her school. The first year, they took the kids who were failing math in groups of 10 for 20-25 minutes in the middle of the school day.
Students were told they were called for two reasons: Standardized testing (AIMS) scores were at the failing level, and their math scores were low. Lori recalls, “We told them ‘We’re here to help you with that. But we’re not going to do math.’
They liked that. The first day they came in, they chose a goal. They wrote ‘I am committing to x…for the next four months. They circled whichever Know, Choose, or Give category that fit their goal.”
Lori says much of what she does is focus on behaviors inside and outside the classroom, but she also connects those with the emotions driving them.
She says, “We might talk about the emotions that are getting in the way of them talking to teachers. Are you afraid, are you nervous? Do you not know how to formulate the question? Many kids don’t know how to describe their feelings. Many are first generation American. Many just don’t have the words. I help them name feelings, bored, scared, and so on.”
She asks the students, “Do you have a good place home to study? Are you talking to your parents? Are you asking teachers questions? Looking for support? These are the things we target. Every week they check their grades. We talk about their grades, but we don’t focus on them.”
And the results were remarkable. Two years ago when she did the program during the school day, 87% of the students improved their scores in a core subject by at least 5%. Sometimes their math grade didn’t go up, but other scores went up.
Last year, the success was 63% of students improved by 5%, a dip she ascribes to the switch to an afterschool setting. What’s perhaps more important, is that students began developing a vocabulary of empathy and it started showing in their behavior at school.
But beyond the statistics, there are the Jimmies of the world, who, if taught social emotional skills early enough, can become compassionate leaders instead of bullies.
So, how does Six Seconds help Lori excel at being a school social worker?
She reflects, “My pursuit of a noble goal is off the charts. I love helping people break down a problem into its little pieces, and to focus on that thing. Most people come in overwhelmed, but if you boil it down to one theme, it can be handled.”