“University at Buffalo Alumnus Personal Biography Update” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

To follow is an alumni update that I posted today at my alma mater, the University at Buffalo.  I am also posting it here so there is awareness regarding what I wrote, and so that my readers may understand a bit about my background.

In my years since graduation from UB in 1993, most of my career experience has been in teaching, mostly social studies and science.  I obtained my MS from Buffalo State College in 1997; and returned to school there for my education certification, receiving it in 2000, also interning for Sam Hoyt.  I moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area for an employment opportunity in teaching in 2000.  In 2002, I was married; and in 2003, my son was born.  In 2009, I was divorced, following a 2.5-year separation.  I returned to New York State and worked for a few months before moving back to Georgia.  Then, I returned to school and obtained my certificate in healthcare with honors.

Currently, I am pursuing my second master’s degree, this one in counseling, at Argosy University in Atlanta.  There, I am an honor student, and am taking double the full-time course load.  My current activities include volunteer work, as well as maintaining two blogs, and being active on LinkedIn with two groups that I founded and manage, “People Against Retaliation and Bullying,” and “Lepidoptera Lovers.”  I also write and contribute, pseudonymously, for both a national and an international non-profit.  I enjoy nature and the outdoors, and spending quality time with my son.

In my experiences at UB, I am thankful for the opportunity to gain a great education, particularly learning about research and participating as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology.  Having experiences in music as a member of pep band, wind ensemble (concert band), and chorus enriched my life.  Being a member of the UB Royals women’s track team, and competing in shot put at the 1990 NCAA championships also broadened my horizons.  Studying abroad in Poland, visiting relatives, and traveling in Europe were also enjoyable.

UB gave me opportunities to expand my interests and personality in many ways, as I was a member and/or leader in many clubs and organizations.  I met many people at UB who enriched my life.  I am thankful for these experiences, and do my best to make a positive difference in the lives of others, including as a result of both the positive and negative experiences that I had at UB. As a result, I have become a strong advocate for children and women, and victims/survivors of trauma and sexual assault.

Michele Babcock-Nice

BA, Psychology, 1993 & BA, Political Science, 1993

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“Children Need Advocacy and Support, not Ignorance and Punishment” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Not a day goes by that I am amazed and disappointed by the lack of insight and support that many people have regarding children.  Even in regard to people who one might believe are trained in child development and education may be completely oblivious to realizing that their words and behaviors are unsupportive of, and in many cases, detrimental toward children.  What children in our world need – especially those who may have special considerations, including disabilities – is advocacy, understanding, and support rather than ignorance, misunderstanding, and punishment.

When people in child development, education, and other fields are rigid and unbelieving about the needs of children – and who, in fact, do not have an understanding of children that is in the child’s best interests – children suffer in many ways and can be placed at great risk in many cases.  In medical and healthcare fields, individuals are supposed to do their best to ‘do no harm’ and adhere to the Hippocratic Oath.  While the medical field, however, often practices from a perspective of illness, the counseling field strives to recognize people from a view of wellness.  An illness or disease is not the person; but rather, it is the person who must be supported in a view of wellness in order to improve or recover from illness.

Educators, child care specialists, and others – including parents – need to have a wider view of what is best for children.  In cases of highly contentious and adversarial divorces, for example, psychological evaluations and/or assessments of the parties involved, may be ordered by a judge.  In such cases, by today’s standards, these reports, typically made by an unbiased psychologist, provide judges and attorneys with a more clear perspective of family relationships and parenting.  Thus, people in the legal field recognize that they may not have the training needed to make such unbiased evaluations.  They rely on psychologists to ethically and professionally perform them so that the best interests of the child are maintained.

Unfortunately, and to the detriment of children, not everyone recognizes that they do not have the insight or training needed to work in and make decisions that are in the best interests of children.  From my knowledge and experiences regarding many schools, particularly those in the South, individuals in education are quick to punish, including for minor issues, and may not realize that they do not have the insight necessary to best support children and do what is best for children.  Exercise as punishment (such as being made to walk or run laps outside, including in high temperatures) and lengthy detentions (including 30-60 minute lunch/recess detentions), particularly for insignificant issues, and issued toward children, do not resolve, but compound issues, making children potentially distrustful, disrespecting of, and hopeless about school officials.  (I know of at least four schools in my immediate area where these are practices.) 

These situations are compounded and worsened regarding children who have special needs.  Sometimes, it appears to be the children and/or parents who are blamed in situations in which school officials promise support and accommodation to such children, however they may just be going through the motions and not adequately or effectively be meeting such needs.  And, punishments toward children have been shown in research to be ineffective; truly, they may only serve to increase distrust and resentment in children toward adults who are supposed to have their best interests in mind, but who, in fact, do not.

In some situations, an array of psychological evaluations and assessments may be provided to educators that address children’s special needs – and parents may inform school teachers and leaders about what is best for their child – however, for whatever reasons, school teachers and officials may simply be ignorant about such needs, may not follow the suggestions of professional evaluations or parent recommendations, and may completely misjudge the situations.  Doing this places some children with special needs in greater danger and at higher risk for worse outcomes and situations at school.  Through the school officials’ own lack of insight – and in some cases – lack of compassion and motivation to learn, grow, and develop – children are, in fact, harmed by their ignorance and lack of support, and in some cases, are blamed and punished due to it – the pitfall of blaming the victim.

When children with special needs are not sufficiently, nor positively accommodated in schools, great risk and danger may be imposed upon them due to others’ ignorance.  To some people, what is clear and obvious in certain situations goes completely unrecognized – and therefore, not at all addressed – in others.  What is worse in these situations is when people who are ignorant about these situations categorically deny that they have occurred and escalate already tense situations that may involve high emotions.  Such lack of insight and understanding reflects not only their ignorance, but their rigidity, inflexibility, and absolute refusal toward even having an interest at gaining any increased understanding about the issues or situations.  

Even those most highly-trained in supporting children may sometimes miss critical pieces of information, however this should be an indication to others that as much training and information is needed to enlighten themselves to children’s needs and what is in children’s best interests.  Additionally, because there is often the tendency in people to desire to perceive issues and situations in an optimistic manner, there should be an awareness of this so that critical issues about others are not missed and do not turn potentially tragic. 

In short, particularly when it comes to educating children, it is not acceptable to be clueless about and not practice what is in their best interests.  And, situations that are detrimental and potentially tragic to children that occur out of the ignorance of educators and school officials should not be escalated – but diffused – in the best interests of children. 

In my book, perhaps schools in which ignorance and a lack of support prevails toward children may be performing okay with some students, but they may also be harming those students who are most at risk.  Such characteristics, policies, and/or the lack of policies of schools become dangerous to children when people in education do not even realize that what is occurring is creating a potentially harmful or tragic situation for children.  Parents must be acutely aware of and insightful about such circumstances in order to advocate for and protect their children as much as possible, particularly in schools where everyone may not be on the same page about what is best for children.