Reflections from a National Check & Connect Trainer

Photo of Sharon Mule'Sharon Mulé is moving on to a new position here at the University of Minnesota. She will be the new Staff Development Coordinator for the U of M Extension Center for Family Development. We are both excited for her new growth opportunity and sad to see her leave our Check & Connect team.

We decided to interview Sharon and glean from her wisdom after her four years of service as a national Check & Connect trainer and coordinator. Here are her reflections on Check & Connect:

 

What is your most memorable site that you trained? Why was this so memorable?

So here’s the thing, training is what you make it. Each site, and each training, is a demonstration of commitment to help students succeed.

In Johnston, SC, in the middle of July people came from all over the country to an open enrollment training where the superintendent of schools held a raffle resulting in someone winning a jar of change, and the supervisor of maintenance made homemade peach ice cream for all of us and served at a break.

From Johnston NC

James Courtney, Director of Facilities, Maintenance, Transportation and Technology in Johnston, South Carolina, serving up his homemade peach ice cream

In Norwalk, CT, a team from a local non-profit, Serving All Vessels Equally, are providing C&C mentoring to students at Norwalk High School.

Perhaps of all sites those I hold most dear are the teams from Dougherty County in Albany, GA; the Communities in Schools teams in NC; the wonderful team at White Earth Circle of Life Academy where we laughed until we cried and still managed to learn C&C; Lafayette, LA, where I conducted some of my first trainings; the wonderful committed, team at Fond du Lac Ojibwe School where I was privileged to work on the Connecting Through Service Project; and of course the team from the State Personal Development Grant in Florida where we put our feet on the ground and our heads together and came up with an amazing plan for implementing C&C across the state.

Dougherty County Schools team in Albany, Georgia

Dougherty County Schools team in Albany, Georgia

Communities in Schools team in North Carolina

Communities in Schools team in North Carolina

 

Sharon with Lael Engstrom from Florida

Sharon with Lael Engstrom from Florida

There are many more wonderful locations from Manchester (New Hampshire), Indiana, Kentucky and all of you who have been in my open enrollment trainings here in the Twin Cities. We certainly have learned a lot and had a great time along the way!

What is the most common question you get in training?

Well that depends on the implementation model. If the site is using the mentor model whereby existing staff serve as mentors, the common questions are typically around how other sites find time for mentoring. If the site has designated mentors then the questions are around how to connect with other school staff and how to engage the family (see this blog post by Sandy Christensen and myself, Engaging with Families).

(Editorial note: Visit the Check & Connect manual for resources to help answer these questions on pp. 33, 120-127, and 64-74).

What is the most common question you get AFTER training?

After training we get a range of questions ranging from how mentors can engage families to how coordinators can modify the C&C monitoring form. These are all great questions that we as Check & Connect trainers work with sites during the follow-up technical assistance.

What do you recommend for sites getting started with C&C?

  1. Build an administrative team, which would include the C&C coordinator, principal or assistant principal, and other members of the school administrative team, such as the social worker, counselors, and psychologist. This team becomes responsible for the supporting the fidelity of implementation.
  2. Tell everyone! Make sure to introduce the C&C model to the whole school team. Talk about the role that school staff can have in assisting mentors in supporting students.
  3. Start small and focus on fidelity. Sometimes it works well to build a base program before you scale up to serve more students in your school or more schools in your district!

What do you recommend for coordinators continuing with or scaling up their C&C implementation?

  1. Connect with our national Coordinators Community of Practice.
  2. Meet with your C&C mentors individually as well as in a group. Do this at least monthly. For ideas about topics for C&C meetings at your site, just ask the team of trainers!
  3. Make sure all four components are being implemented.
  4. Connect on a regular basis with your administrative team and use their support as needed to implement with fidelity.
  5. Attend to fidelity of implementation from the beginning. Make sure you have clear goals, mentors are “Checking” and “Connecting” with students, and you continue your training and growth in the field (see C&C Fidelity of Implementation Follow-Up Workshop).
  6. Spread the good news. When you see exciting things happening in C&C tell your school team, your community, and tell us!

What is your new position at the U of M?

I am so excited to be the coordinator for staff development for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. I will continue to follow, with interest, all the good work of ICI and C&C. I have the same e-mail (ssmule@umn.edu) so I expect updates from all my friends in C&C programs around the country.

Any final departing thoughts for our readers?

Thank you to all of you for inviting us into your schools and communities. Keep up the good work, keep the faith, and be persistent! As the team in Dougherty County Schools so eloquently said—

“One student, if we change the life of one student, we have made a difference!”


About the Author: Megan Dushin is the communications coordinator for Check & Connect. She interviewed Sharon Mulé, a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota who is soon taking a new position at the U of M. 

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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