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Q&A About AVERT Training for Teachers

Questions:


Why was the AVERT Project Created for Teachers?
The role of a teacher is complex and multi-faceted and has evolved considerably over time.  But what has remained constant is the powerful image they represent to their students and the powerful impact they play on their studentís personal and social development.   Most students view teachers as role models and authority figures representing society.  How the teacher responds to them is often interpreted by the student as how society views them, and will be remembered by the student for many years to come.  In essence, teachers are mandated representatives of society.  Depending on how they administer their powerful role, they can elicit hope, courage and the seeds of self-respect and empowerment.  Just as easily, they can promote apathy, despair and rage.

The AVERT project for teachers was created to foster teacher empathy because increased teacher empathy helps enrich teachers relationships with their students, decreases school violence by decreasing alienation among youth, decreases the problem of eroding motivation among teachers, and ensures safety in the school setting, where levels of stress often run high. 

The AVERT project was not designed to expose dysfunctional behavior or to single out individual teachers performing their jobs badly.  Instead, the AVERT project strives to encourage and honor the many fine educators already doing a splendid job while, at the same time, to help those teachers at risk.

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Why Does Empathy = Safety for Teachers and Students?  
Students understand that a teacherís role is to require them to comply with societyís educational demands and to report on their progress. However, teachers must keep in mind that the everyday business of enforcing rules, inhibiting studentsí physical movements, and holding them responsible for their actions can be more than just a routine course of action for some students.  In fact, for the emotionally stressed, such experiences can be frightening and traumatic and lead to violence, either immediate or delayed, and possible harm to the teacher and/or student. It is therefore an appropriate protective measure for todayís professional educators to gain an empathic view of their studentsí emotional states and processes. 

The ability to comprehend another personís cognitive and emotional perception on an empathic levelówhile differentiating oneís own perception and how it might affect othersóis invaluable knowledge for any professional educator.  Such an ability will decrease the resistance felt by students who will come to perceive their teachers as respectful and worthy of respect, thus cultivating a safer and healthier school environment for all.

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What is Empathy and How Can It Prevent Violence?
Empathy is the process of stepping outside of oneself and into the shoes of another.  It is our human ability to understand the thoughts, emotions, and perspective of another human being by drawing on our own life experience for insight into their situation. Itís understanding, both emotionally and intellectually, what it might be like to be standing in the shoes of the other person and how we might respond if in a similar circumstance. 

When addressing the issue of school safety empathy is extremely important because it allows teachers to do several things.  First, it gives them a chance to predict the behavior of their students, and second, it allows them the possibility to affect the outcome before itís too late.

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Can Empathy Be Developed Through Training?
Through
the use of specifically designed role-training exercises, one can develop a cognitive as well as affective understanding of anotherís experience.  Social role-taking is an exercise that helps an individual or group develop empathy by having them assume the role of another.  This method has two distinct components: cognitive role-taking, wherein an individual becomes able to think about what another person is thinking, and affective role-taking, wherein an individual becomes able to understand anotherís feeling states.  

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How long is the Training?
The training is designed to be completed two in different formats.  The first is a (four-hour) training and the second a (six- or eight-hour) training.  However, where special needs are concerned, the training format can be tailored to meet the needs of the respective agency.  If you are in a situation where you are able to give more time to this training, you will be able to expand the format and elaborate wherever your trainers feel it to be appropriate.  

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