If you are reading this, the odds are good that you have an incredible heart for young people. I have been blessed with the same heart, but it took me far too long to understand that just having the right heart was simply not enough to help under-resourced students.

So much of Dr. Ruby Payne’s work has not just helped me really help kids; it has changed the person I am. In doing so, many more young people have had a chance to write, as opposed to accept, their “future stories.”

The learning in Emotional Poverty 1 and 2 is incredibly timely! We are losing educators at such an incredible rate! This learning helps give our educators the ability to balance honoring every child’s reality, while empowering every child with an equitable chance to write that story!

In this first blog, I thought I’d share three key parts of the learning from Emotional Poverty 1 that have helped impact the students I’m blessed to serve.

No. 1: An unregulated and unintegrated brain. In my opinion, Dr. Payne’s work is all about empowering our students. I have found no one thing more empowering to my kids than teaching them what is going on in their brain as it moves to and eventually becomes an explosion. Teaching the Hand Model found early in Emotional Poverty 1 and helping each student understand that they are dealing with a “brain” situation, not a “behavior” situation, gives the student the power to start changing the reaction that so often leads to punishment, punishment geared toward a behavior that simply started as a brain situation.

No. 2: Dr. Payne’s Emotional Triage approach. Many schools have some form of process in which they are trying to connect to students who often fall through the cracks. Utilizing Dr. Payne’s ideas of “Emotional Triage” and recruiting staff from all parts of the school to be a part of the team is a game changer. This process allows us to be intentional in being proactive in identifying both students who need our relationships so much. On a daily basis, it allows a team to identify a student who comes to school with a brain already unregulated and unintegrated, and it gives us a chance to be proactive before the student ever gets to class.

No. 3: Identifying both my own and my students “triggers.” We get to make a choice as teachers every day and every period of the day. Often, classroom management seems like such a tough hill to climb, as we often unintentionally “trigger” a student with a hypersensitive amygdala, or they trigger us. Understanding how to not be a trigger by living to the best of ability in my “adult” voice and identifying my own triggers are daily difference makers. I’ve just completed my 30th year in education, and it is amazing how many educators miss a chance to make their class periods less chaotic and improve their ability to create real relationships because they do not understand this important concept.

These three parts of Dr. Payne’s learning are difference makers that do not take a lot to implement, but that implementation makes a huge difference in our schools and classrooms.

To learn more about emotional poverty, read Emotional Poverty in All Demographics: How to Reduce Anger, Anxiety, and Violence in the Classroom and Emotional Poverty, Volume 2: Safer Students and Less-Stressed Teachers, both by Ruby Payne. An online Emotional Poverty 2 workshop is scheduled for September 29, and an online Emotional Poverty workshop is set for January 17.