This week, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by John Newman. Newman is a pastor in Lafayette, LA who founded New Hope Community Development of Acadiana.
In my first five years of teaching, I taught in a self-contained classroom for students in kindergarten through fifth grade with emotional disturbances and behavior disorders. Some would say I’m a glutton for punishment, but it was where I wanted to be.
What you have to do in a classroom like that is to accept that the child you are dealing with is not the problem. It is the circumstances around the child that are the problem. If you think that you are going to fix the child by being firm, you are wrong. You must address the circumstance and help the child overcome the circumstance in order for them to be successful. In nearly all cases, the children assigned to my classroom were very bright and capable. There were some who had fallen behind because there was some piece of instruction that they didn’t get as quickly as other students. Once behind, a student who has multiple circumstances outside of the classroom tends to act out in inappropriate ways. In all cases, the behaviors were a result of stress related events and a lack of knowing how to deal with stress and emotions, or not being able to express their emotions. A great portion of my school day was spent teaching the invaluable social skills that these children lacked.
What I see as a growing trend in education is an enormous amount of discipline related suspensions that are a direct result of the types of behaviors that I saw in my classroom, only on a lesser scale. Each year, we see legislation introduced that is intended to reduce suspensions and keep children in school. The problem that I see is that the issue is being identified as a school problem when it is not. It is a community and family problem. John Newman knows this, and John Newman is making a difference.
New Hope Community Development of Acadiana is an after school tutoring program that focuses on teaching these social skills before even attempting to teach academics. They build character, confidence and trust in their participants, and they are getting results.
On the New Hope website, you’ll find the following values listed. These are the very foundations of their program, and it is what they instill in the children who attend.
RESPECT: We will treat others as we would want to be treated, understanding that all people are specially created by God. We will show high regard for those in authority. (Luke 22:3)
WISDOM: We will consider the consequences of our actions before we act. (Proverbs 22:3)
RESPONSIBILITY: We will follow through on our commission by doing our best. We will be accountable in word and deed. (Colossians 3:23)
GRATITUDE: We will be thankful for what we have. We will not compare ourselves to others or complain about what we don’t have. (Psalms 118:1)
GENEROSITY: We will give freely without expecting anything in return. We will offer our time, our things and our talents to help others in need. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
SELF-DISCIPLINE: We will work to control our emotions, actions and impulses. (Proverbs 29:11)
INTEGRITY: We will always tell the truth and admit wrongdoing. We will be consistent in our words and actions. (Proverbs 12:22)
FORGIVENESS: We will stop feeling angry towards others who have hurt us and we will not seek revenge. (Matthew 6:14)
Attendees and participants of the New Hope program must be residents of the community. This helps to provide one of the most invaluable aspects of the program’s success; a sense of community and family. We need this sort of program all over our cities.
If you don’t know John Newman, you owe it to yourself to meet him. Visit with him, or better yet, invite him to speak to your community, or organization. Newman’s program is a model that we need to see in our communities.