Grace Dearborn

Instructional Coach / Program Director
Conscious Teaching

I worked for many years as a teacher in under-resourced, high-poverty schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. My heart broke for so many of my kids, whose home lives and childhood experiences were so traumatizing that their ability to learn at school was deeply undermined. While I, and a few of my colleagues, looked for ways to connect with and support these students, I saw many other teachers just giving up on them, saying things like "They have to meet me halfway" and " You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." I understand how a person might come to this place of not caring anymore, after years of trying unsuccessfully to deal with the extreme and difficult behaviors that traumatized youth often display in the classroom. Most people don't go into teaching to become behavior specialists. But that's part of the job. And people who aren't willing to do that part, or become better at it, are essentially perpetuating the damage these kids are already experiencing. In my own work, I was willing to become better at it. I was willing to learn, to alter my beliefs and behaviors towards my least successful students, and to experiment with new ways of interacting with and supporting them. And I saw it pay off, for them and for me. I was drawn to colleagues who were doing the same and we fed off each other's successes. Over time we started to see patterns and trends in what kinds of things helped and what kinds of things didn't. We started to share this learning with others, in our school and in other schools. Now, as an independent consultant, I feel a deep and pressing need to share what my colleagues and I learned, so that more students can get what they need and more teachers can feel empowered instead of helpless and hopeless. In my first year consulting, I worked with teachers at a high school in Oakland CA where I created a year-long literacy intervention social studies course that was taught to all in-coming ninth graders. This course resulted in a dramatic increase in state test scores raising the school’s state score by 70 points over three years. More recently I completed a three-year contract with a Title 1 school in Omaha NE where my support was one piece of a three-year intervention that was so successful that suspensions and referrals were reduced by over 70% and academic outcomes improved almost 30% in literacy and 60% in math. I have authored three books on classroom teaching and behavior intervention: “Yeah, But What About This Kid?,” “Conscious Classroom Management,” and “Picture This!” I may not be the only person qualified to speak on the topics of equitable and trauma-informed classroom management, but I am certainly one of them.