Building resilience and the truth about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can last a lifetime but THEY DON'T HAVE TO! Relationships are central in promoting resilience and healing and reducing the negative impact of ACEs. For adults and caregivers to understand their own ACEs and then learn about ways to foster resilience in themselves and their children are key in moving beyond what the research is telling us.
Strengthening Families (link to: has a framework of five protective factors that promote optimal development and strong families. They are:
  • 1. Parental Resilience
  • 2. Social Connection
  • 3. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • 4. Concrete Supports in Time of Need, and
  • 5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children
For more information go to the ACES page of our Mitchell School Counseling website

Speak Up For Kids public education campaign

What would I tell my younger self?

Each day in May a prominent individual will speak to his or her younger self about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder.

These messages of hope and courage are worth watching.  Michael Phelps, Wayne Brady, Dan Harris, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Lena Dunham and many others.  Please check it out!  Or subscribe via social media and share their stories.

Speak Up For Kids - Child Mind Institute

Great local resources - Gateway to Maine Outside and Seacoast Kids Calendar

Gateway to Maine Outside encourages people to experience and appreciate the enjoyment, natural beauty, and health benefits of getting outside in Southern Maine.

Check out the events and resources at

Another resource the Seacoast Kids Calendar.  "Believe us, it’s not that there’s a lack of fun things to do on the seacoast—the challenge is finding them! If it’s happening anywhere from Ogunquit, Maine to Portsmouth, NH to Newburyport, MA and everywhere in between, you’ll hear about it right here."

And for weekend adventures, check out the Portland Kids Calendar 

April is the Month of the Military Child

As we celebrate the Month of the Military Child we offer personal thanks to each Armed Forces family. Starting with Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in 1986, the serving Secretary of Defense has designated each April as "The Month of the Military Child."  Frequent moves and extended family separation make military life especially challenging.  Please join us in acknowledging and honoring our military students and their experiences. 

Wednesday April 26th is Purple Up! for Military Kids Day at Mitchell School. 
 Wearing the color purple is a visible way to show support and thank military youth for their strength and 
sacrifices.  Why purple? Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is a combination of Army green, Marine red, and Coast Guard, Air Force, and Navy blue.

We shared a portion of the Reading Rainbow video A Day in the Life of a Military Family with students in their classrooms and military-connected students and some parents are sharing their experiences.

We made a bulletin board in the center of our school to honor and celebrate students from our military families.  We are helping our young military children discover their SPARC...  

Each of our military students will be signing their names next to the branch of service in which their parent(s) serve and placing pushpins on the many different states and countries they've lived.  We are proud of them!

The poem "The Dandelion – The Official Flower of the Military Child" is also posted on the bulletin board. We wanted to share it with you.

Don't forget....
Wednesday April 26th is PURPLE UP! Day at Mitchell School. Wear purple to show your support for military-connected youth.

For more information on supporting military families in Kittery schools, please go to:

Research on Social Emotional Learning in Elementary School

Current research from Penn State and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirms that we're on the right track.  Here at Mitchell School we use Second Step and Responsive Classroom which are both evidence-based Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs/approaches that are cited in this research. 

Social Emotional Learning in Elementary School

Preparation for Success

Infographic used for Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary Schools

Social emotional learning (SEL) programs can promote academic achievement and positive social behavior, and reduce conduct problems, substance abuse, and emotional distress.

The Issue
There is widespread evidence of successful, universal SEL programs and practices that can support social and emotional development in students during the elementary school years. Based on decades of research and evaluation in rigorous field trials, these approaches are now widely available to schools, along with teacher training and ongoing coaching to support high quality implementation.

Key Findings

  • SEL programs can promote academic achievement and healthy, positive behaviors.
  • SEL is critical to students success and shows a positive return on investment.
  • Effective programs address everything from individual student instruction to overall school climate.
  • They are also evidence-based, are improved by partnering with families, are culturally and linguistically sensitive, and include teacher training.

Schools should adopt effective SEL programs to ensure student success, and policymakers should create policies and guidelines that support SEL goals.
About the Pennsylvania State University and this Research Series
Founded in 1855, the Pennsylvania State University is a renowned public research university that educates students from around the world and collaborates with partners to share valuable knowledge that improves the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Pennsylvania State University is creating a series of briefs addressing the need for research, practice and policy on social and emotional learning. The series will cover how teachers, parents, schools and others can help support the social emotional learning of students.

Many students have asked if they can watch the video clips that we share with them again - so here they are! These are the short videos that we occasionally use to supplement a classroom lesson, enhance a small group conversation, and or when we work with a student individually. We will continue to add to this list as we go forward. It will reside permanently as a link on the "Classroom Lessons from the School Counselor" page (see tab above).

You Can Learn Anything

Just Breathe

The Marshmallow Test

(Follow up to the Marshmallow Test )   The Waiting Game with Guy Smiley - Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Me Want It! But Me Wait!

Mind Yeti - from Second Step

Belly Breathe with Common and Colbie Caillat

Example of a Brain Builder game (we do not show the students this video but we frequently play Brain Builder games like these)  -

The Zones of Regulation

The Size of Your Problem

Mind the Bump - Mindfulness and How the Brain Works

Why Mindfulness is a Superpower: An Animation

How Mindfulness Empowers Us: An Animation Narrated by Sharon Salzburg

What Do We Have All Wrong About Meditation? Featuring Dan Harris

Kindness videos (that we shared during The Great Kindness Challenge)

Advertisement from an insurance agency in Thailand --  Thai Good Stories by Linaloved 

Buddy Bench 

Attendance matters!

Attendance matters! Did you know that...
    1. Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the workplace. Good attendance matters for school success, starting as early prekindergarten and throughout elementary school. By middle and high school, poor attendance is a leading indicator of dropout. Developing the habit of attendance prepares students for success on the job and in life.
    2. Excused and unexcused absences quickly add up to too much time lost in the classroom, starting in kindergarten and even pre-k, especially for the most vulnerable populations.
    3. Students are at risk academically if they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days. Once too many absences occur, they can affect learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused.
      • Sporadic, not just consecutive, absences matter. Before you know it – just one or two days a month can add up to nearly 10 percent of the school year.
      • Avoid unnecessary absences. Some absences are unavoidable. Occasionally, children get sick and need to stay home. What is important is getting children to school as often as possible.
    1. Chronic absence, missing 10 percent or more of the school year does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction for other students, who must wait while the teacher repeats material for absentee students. This makes it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach.
    2. Educators and families need to monitor how many days each student misses school for any reason – excused, unexcused or suspensions – so we can intervene early. Districts and schools should use data to identify how many and which students are chronically absent to provide extra support where it is needed. Families should track how many days their children have missed so they are aware of when they should be concerned and take action. We can’t afford to think of absenteeism as merely a lack of compliance with school rules or a loss of funding. Absences represent lost opportunities to learn in the classroom.
    3. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole community works with, families and schools. All of us can make a difference by helping create a positive school climate that engages students and families in learning and sets the expectation that attendance matters. Community partners are especially important for helping schools and families address and overcome tough barriers such as limited access to health care, hunger, unstable housing, and poor transportation or neighborhood violence.
    4. Relationship building is fundamental to any strategy for improving student attendance. Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they show up. Trusting relationships – whether with teachers, mentors, coaches or other caring adults – are critical to encouraging families and students to seek out help to overcome barriers to attendance.
    5. Reducing chronic absence can help close the achievement gap. Chronic absence especially affects achievement for low-income students who depend more on school for opportunities to learn. Because they are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school, low-income children, many of whom are children of color, have higher levels of chronic absence starting as early as prekindergarten. Chronic absence data can be used to trigger interventions so high-risk student populations receive the supports they need, ideally before they fall behind academically.
    6. Map and address the attendance gap. Data can show up us where absenteeism is most concentrated (by school, grade, ethnicity, geography, income, etc.) and help us unpack the major causes and identify potential causes. This information can then be used to ensure resources are targeted to improve outcomes, especially for the students who currently have the least access to an opportunity to do well in school.

From "Consequence" to "Prevention" - Redefining what we mean by bullying to better understand and prevent it

Here is a great article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Bernice Raveche Garnett explain that "A critical aspect of preventing bullying is building a positive school climate. It's important to focus on building community and strengthening relationships, as well as helping students and adults build understanding across differences of identity and life experiences."

All of us at Mitchell School work hard with this goal in mind. Please join us in this journey. We welcome your input and feedback.

Link to the article posted below

From “Consequence” to “Prevention”


From “Consequence” to “Prevention”: Redefining what we mean by bullying to better understand and prevent it #hgse #usableknowledge @harvarded
Despite the attention bullying has received over the past decade, there’s still too often a gap between what schools consider to be bullying — officially — and what children experience as bullying on a day-to-day basis. For many specialists, it’s time to reexamine what we mean by bullying, in order to better understand and prevent it.
Policymakers and educators often rely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of bullying to determine legal, preventative, and intervention efforts in schools. In that definition, bullying is “unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners,” involving power imbalance and the likelihood of repetition. But this interpretation doesn’t fully capture the experiences of young people, according to a new article by Gretchen Brion-Meisels and Bernice Raveche Garnett.
Brion-Meisels and Garnett propose a broader definition, one that asks educators to think more holistically about the wide-ranging factors influencing students’ experiences of safety and harm at school. Their framework is founded on the idea of relational youth violence — “behaviors (physical, relational, sexual, verbal, or psychological) and policies (formal or informal) that are intentionally or unintentionally harmful . . . based on real or perceived power imbalances.” The shift reflects the complexity of students’ lived experiences and pushes back against simple categorization. It calls on researchers to better explore connections among acts of bullying, discrimination, and harassment, and it attempts to nudge schools to move beyond classification and consequences and toward the kind of understanding, communication, and support that can change a culture.
Why do we need to better define and understand the word “bullying”?We asked Brion-Meisels to tell us more why we need to shift thinking about bullying:
When I talk with young people about their experience in school, they describe a number of factors that cause them to feel sad, scared, undervalued, and disrespected. Adults often lump these different types of behaviors into one category and call it “bullying.” Unfortunately, adults and institutions are perpetrating some of these behaviors; institutions are often set up in ways that privilege certain students over others, and this can both lead to (and stem from) adults who are using their power in ways that cause young folks harm. Schools are asked to measure and report bullying, and in many states, like Massachusetts, they are required to have a policy and plan on how to prevent it; but because certain types of relational harm are not included in our definition of “bullying,” young peoples’ experiences with these forms of discrimination and harassment are more likely to get overlooked. 
In addition, the current system puts pressure on schools to ensure that they are categorizing and recording instances of bullying. When we focus on categorizing harmful behaviors, we can create a punitive and reactive culture, which shifts the focus away from effective prevention and intervention efforts — typically whole-school efforts that support the development of a positive climate by strengthening relationships and fostering social-emotional learning. Effective bullying prevention efforts include the existence of antibullying policies, and the explicit protection of young people whose identities are marginalized; but they also use formative, restorative consequences when harm occurs. To do this requires that educators build community on multiple levels — across the school, in the classroom, and on an individual level — before a harmful interaction occurs.
What do you want educators to be thinking about, when it comes to relational harm?
In order to effectively prevent bullying and discrimination in schools, educators need to understand not just the moment of a harmful interaction, but what has led to it. Why might an individual feel as though the only way to have his/her/their needs met is to hurt someone else? When educators spend too much time worrying about how to classify or categorize harmful behaviors, there is a tendency to lose sight of the environment that fostered these behaviors. I want people to worry about what exists in the culture of a school or community that may be causing adults and youth to act in these ways, and to consider the needs of young people that aren’t being met.
To some degree, what we call this harmful behavior matters — particularly in terms of the consequences that a school might enact. But regardless of what we call it, our response should be multi-tiered. We need to bolster the young woman’s self-esteem, helping her feel like she can be who she is and wear what she wants within the confines of school rules. We need to address issues of weight-based bias, and/or racism, and/or homophobia in our school community. And we need to make sure that students find better ways to express their frustration, anger, or needs.Here is an example: Imagine a situation where a group of students are teasing an overweight, female peer who is walking down the hall wearing short-shorts. One educator might call this “sexual harassment,” because the students are talking about their peer’s body; this might be particularly true if the students were male. Another educator might call it bullying because the group is more powerful than the individual, and is using its power to tease her about her weight. If the young woman felt uncomfortable enough that she skipped class or left school, an educator might call the behavior harassment. So, there are at least three different ways to classify the same behavior. Then imagine if the young woman in question was a woman of color or identified as a lesbian; we might call the behavior racism or homophobia.
Too often, our focus is the bottom line — labeling the behavior in order to attach a consequence to it. I want educators to say, “Why did this happen at our school?” The answer might be that it happened because we are not educating students enough about how to talk to people whose identities or ideas are different from their own. Or we might discover that the media is influencing what our students think about bodies and clothes. Or we might discover that our students are frustrated and stressed by something happening in our school or community, and they are taking this frustration out on each other. Those are the things I want educators to be having conversations about.
How can a school leader think more holistically about preventing and responding to bullying?
Research suggests that prevention and intervention efforts are most effective when they respond to local needs. School-based teams can collect data around young peoples’ experiences at school and use it to drive their efforts. It’s important that the language schools use to talk about relational harm reflects the ways that students talk about their experiences. Data will help educators to understand young people’s experiences.A critical aspect of preventing bullying is building a positive school climate. It’s important to focus on building community and strengthening relationships, as well as helping students and adults build understanding across differences of identity and life experiences. One way to begin this work is to convene a team of stakeholders who represent different parts of your school community — families, community members, teachers, support staff, and youth. This team can begin by articulating a vision for what a positive climate will look like at their school, whether (and which) young people are feeling safe, and why or why not they are feeling this way. The team can define bullying, discrimination, and harassment together, can think about how to articulate a policy that protects students from relational harm, and can consider formative consequences when harm occurs.
The key is to act on multiple levels at once — not just react. Have a plan about how to build positive culture schoolwide, how to support teachers in building a positive classroom climate, and how to provide targeted supports for students in need. Then, when an incident happens, educators can ask questions not just about the individual interaction, but about what is happening within the school that may be facilitating these types of issues, what exists in the school to support both parties, and how the discourse in the wider community is filtering into our schools.
We need to think carefully about what we are teaching, how the curriculum is supporting students’ understanding of difference, and how we are providing students will social and emotional skills. It can’t just be about the bullying. It needs to be about the environment that is shaping our harmful interactions, or helping to prevent them.


  • Child Trends provides a rich summary of the data on bullying, looking at demographic incidence and research on prevention. Read the comprehensive report here.
  • Child Trends’ Deborah Temkin summarizes conclusions from the release of the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which offers the most up-to-date look at the state of bullying in the United States. Read her overview here.
  • bully-free culture: Three actions that make a difference.
We Want to Hear from You
Our country is polarized: How is that showing up in your school? What are you doing to protect students, confront discrimination, prevent bullying, and foster inclusion? Usable Knowledge would like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook and Twitter, using #OneAllHGSE. Send your advice and resources to, and we’ll share as much as we can. Read more at One and All.

Introducing Maeghen Howe, school-based Sweetser clinician

Hi! My name is Maeghen Howe and this is my first year at Mitchell School as the school-based Sweetser clinician. Sweetser is a Maine behavioral healthcare organization for children, adults and families and school-based therapy is one of the many services that Sweetser offers. While I work out of the school and am able to collaborate with Mitchell School staff, I am not employed by the Kittery School Department. My services are billed through insurance.

I recently graduated from the University of New England with my Master’s in Social Work and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Maine Orono with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. Working with children and their families has been something I have aspired to do since graduating high school and I am overjoyed that it is now my reality. I am a mental health clinician, so I am able to work with your children to develop strategies and skills to improve their behavior, as well as their overall quality of life. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Play Therapy are the two modalities I utilize the most, as I believe play is an important gateway to accessing a children’s learning capabilities. 

There are two ways to access the services I provide in the school. The first way is to consult with Emma Kilgore or Dana Rickerich to fill out a referral, which in turn will be passed along to me. The other way is to contact me directly and we can talk about any struggles your child may be experiencing. 

Please contact me if you have any questions.
Contact: or (207) 468-4293. My office is in the kindergarten wing. 
Hours at Mitchell School: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 8-3. 

Sweetser Information
PromiseLine: 1-800-434-3000
The PromiseLine can be used to find out information about all Sweetser services and gain access to these services.

Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

The Great Kindness Challenge - January 23-27, 2017

The Mitchell School is participating in The Great Kindness Challenge again this year.  It is one school week (January 23-27) devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible, choosing from one of the checklists below. Help us create a culture of kindness in our school and community. It is free, is easy to implement and has the power to increase tolerance, unity and respect for all.  Our school is proudly participating in this proactive, positive, nation-wide bully prevention program.

You will see one of the checklists below in your child's red folder on January 23.  We have many fun activities planned for the week.  Keep scrolling down -- links to videos and songs and a booklist are shared below. Thank you for supporting this initiative in our community.

                    (YouTube videos -- be ready to close out of the advertising pop-ups)

Kind-Hearted Hand - The Great Kindness Challenge Theme Song  

Kind-hearted Hand song WITH lyrics 

Kindness Matters! Easy Ways YOU Can Make Your School a Kinder Place!  (This is a good way to introduce the Great Kindness Challenge to your students)  
Advertisement from an insurance agency in Thailand --  Thai Good Stories by Linaloved 


Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch - Eileen Spinelli
John’s Whistle  - Lili Ferreiros and Sonja Wimmer
The Lion and the Mouse - Bernadette Watts
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters - John Steptoe
Because Amelia Smiled - David Ezra Stein
Each Kindness - Jacqueline Woodson
The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig
The Kindness Quilt - Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Have You Filled a Bucket Today - Carol McCLoud
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Golden Rule  - Ilene Cooper