The Heart of the Matter
Helen Cordero Primary School shines a light on positive behaviors with Nurtured Heart.
At Helen Cordero Primary School in Southwest Albuquerque, the secret ingredient really is love. The school has embraced the Nurtured Heart Approach, a way of relating to and working with children to bring out their best qualities. Helen Cordero principal Ellen Griffiths sums up the approach as, "Don't give energy to the negative. Give attention to the positive." Children want attention from adults. Nurtured Heart shows them that they can get positive attention for good behaviors. There are still clear rules and consequences at Helen Cordero, but there isn't a huge fuss about enforcing them. It's handled quietly and firmly, much like a time out for a foul in a sports game.
Nurtured Heart in Action
For children that have trouble focusing on schoolwork, a teacher might praise them for coming to class on time or putting their pencils away before lunch. "We have started working with intense children that have a hard time working in school settings. You recognize them for little things. You can build on that," says Griffiths. Those little things can quickly add up to better behavior. "You see immediate results," says Griffiths. Praise is often verbal, but billboards in classrooms recognize students for their efforts in ways that everyone can see.
Griffiths has been working in the Helen Cordero community for seven years. Since implementing Nurtured Heart three years ago, she has seen first hand how it has changed attitudes about the school. "I have far, far fewer complaints from parents. The parents are much more positive about the school in general," she says. The students also absorb the upbeat attitude from their teachers. "You see the kids starting to pick it up. It is a catchy thing. The more we do it, the more natural it becomes," says Griffiths.
Connecting with Families
Gaby Vega is the parent liaison at Helen Cordero. Her job is to support families and students. She may arrange food baskets for needy families, connect them with agencies that provide services or conduct home visits that spread the Nurtured Heart message. She was instrumental in bringing Nurtured Heart to Helen Cordero. "It made so much sense. It felt like what I had always been looking for in the schools. I want the school to be a place where there is compassion and love," she says. Teaching parents to use Nurtured Heart at home helps children by providing consistency in their environments. "They want attention. They are so happy that we are noticing them for being on time or doing their homework," says Vega.
Training Teachers, Staff and Parents
Nurtured Heart didn't just happen overnight. It has been implemented through a series of ongoing training sessions for teachers, staff and parents. The school reaches out through many different avenues. "The whole staff was trained. We sent another six staff for training thanks to the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant. We have parenting classes. Our monthly newsletter has the Nurtured Heart Corner," says Griffiths.
Vega often leads the bilingual classes for parents that take place every other month. Maria Cabral is a Helen Cordero parent that attended these classes. "The Nurtured Heart Approach has taught us to love our children more. We understand now that they all have different needs," says Cabral. "The classes have helped us to understand each one of our children and and that we have to teach them with love. That is the key."
People that have learned Nurtured Heart are finding uses for it in all aspects of their lives. It works in school, with spouses, at work and with kids. A lot of the power of the approach comes from its simplicity. Focus on the positive. Don't give energy to the negative. That has been a winning formula for Helen Cordero. "If the kids feel loved, respected and valued, they are going to be able to learn," says Vega.
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