Program Helps Teachers Deal with Disruption
Key to harmony: Creative
By Mike Padgett, Staff writer
I like to cheat, and yeah, I like to hurt people," a chatty
first-grader told Charlie Steffens.
30 seconds later she said, 'But nobody likes to play with me,'"
children like that little girl how to play fairly and that she could
have friends if she didn't hurt them is what Steffens and his partner,
Spencer Gorin, do best.
Mark Henle / Staff photographer
Karen Peterson pretends she's sleeping during one of Charlie Steffens'
and Spencer Goring's creative-play workshops, which aim at resolving
conflicts and building cooperation among students.
their Tucson-based company, Creative Spirit, the two former psychiatric
nurses teach educators how to resolve conflicts involving disruptive
four years since Gorin and Steffens founded their Healthy Play training
program they have worked with 30,000 students and more than 2,000
teachers in several states.
of their work is for teachers through the sixth grade, although they
sometimes are asked to arrange workshops for teachers in high schools.
Wednesday, the two spent most of the day at a Sunnyslope conference
center with 35 teachers form several Valley school districts. In
animated dialogue, Steffens and his pouty alter ego, "Skippy," acted
out disruptive behavior with Gorin, who represented the teacher or
think we all have 'Skippys,' " said Karen Peterson, a third grade
teacher from the Deer Valley Unified School District.
was at the workshop "to learn more creative play for students and how
to make activities more interesting for them."
educator at the conference was Lori McAllister, who is in the
kindergarten-third grade administration in the Washington Elementary
School District. McAllister said she plans to share several ideas she
learned at the workshop with her teachers.
said disruptive or problem students, through their classroom
misbehavior, distract the teacher and bring all the learning in the
room to a stop."
are the kids that usually control the classroom, " Gorin said.
key, they say, is in sidetracking that behavior and encouraging those
students, through creative play and innovative games, to learn proper
social skills and to think of the feelings of others.
teachers cannot resolve a student's disruptive actions, every other
student in the classroom stops learning.
often work in systems where there are two kids in the classroom who are
always arguing or always fighting," Gorin said. "They get all the
attention. Everything stops because these kids are acting out."
also get instruction by participating in childlike games during the
program is so experiential, " Steffens said. "The teachers regain what
it really feels like to be a child. They regain what it really means to
be healthy and to play. We've forgotten that play is the most natural
thing that children know. We no longer see that play is therapeutic for
said the program shows teachers how to encourage students to practice
sharing, caring and honesty.
benefits include better self-esteem, more cooperation, improved social
skills, less-aggressive behavior and a supportive and positive peer
are many other programs out there, but what makes ours different is
that ours is so succinct and unique and elegant to use, and it's
incredibly fun," Gorin said.
Continue with next article