Building capacity can pay off

When we first brought the Safe Dates curriculum into classrooms, we had to decide whether to facilitate it ourselves or train teachers to deliver it. At first, we opted to have our staff serve as facilitators because we did not want to burden the teachers with that extra responsibility. That approach worked well, and teachers quickly welcomed our program into their classrooms—giving us an opportunity to develop quality, trusting working relationships with the teachers. In addition, we found that because teachers were able to observe the program at first, they were able to see our staff in action—enabling them to appreciate what they were doing at a much deeper level. Many teachers even told us that the curriculum taught them as much as about healthy relationships as it taught their students.

Two years later, we trained the teachers to become facilitators. We started with one school, and although it was challenging at first, we ultimately saw a more profound result—the teachers really internalized the content we taught them. They applied the language and tools we equipped them with in every interaction they had—from staff meetings with colleagues, to conversations in the hallways with other students. Their influence reached far beyond the classroom time dedicated to teaching the program. We saw those teachers became true ambassadors of Start Strong—resulting in a much healthier and positive school environment.

Another way in which we have been working to build capacity is by creating professional development programming for school staff across the district. We believe that every person in every school has an important role in helping kids build healthy relationships. Our goal is to equip all staff—not just teachers, but also janitors, counselors, administrators and others—with the skills and tools they need to model healthy behaviors, and identify signs of unhealthy behaviors and respond appropriately.