Arrow Tracks


  • Tools for Life

Posted by Dr. Phil Burchfield at 8/25/2014

Often when children are in kindergarten or first grade, they don’t know how to recognize or express their emotions if they’re frustrated or upset.

When this spills over into the classroom it can cause discipline issues. But by using a teaching method called Tools for Life, teachers at Clinton Park Elementary are working with students to recognize and express these emotions and prevent negative behavior. The Tools for Life program also extends through junior high.

                       clinton blog 1

(Clinton Park Elementary School teachers participate in training for the Tools for Life program. They are incorporating this teaching method in their classrooms as a way to help kindergartners and first-graders recognize and properly express emotions.)


Kindergarten teacher Paige Carter said Tools for Life “was the best training I have received in 17 years.”

“I use it daily in my classroom,” she said. “We start each morning talking about how we feel. I let them know it is OK to have feelings. Everyone does. We learn different ways to deal with what we’re feeling.”

Last year her class got along very well and had very few, if any, behavior issues, she said.

“If a student has an issue come up they are taught to use tools to help them figure out how to solve the issue on their own, without me,” she said. “I was amazed that they could actually do it. I am actually able to teach all day instead of solving problems for all my little ones.”

Carter also has a quiet area set up in the room with quiet objects, posters and tools for students to use if they are having a bad day.

  clinton blog 2

(Tools for Life Corporation President Allen Croxall and education consultant Pat Bell coordinated Tools for Life training for Clinton Park teachers.)


Pat Bell of Bell Consultants, the education consultant for Tools for Life in Mississippi said the Clinton Public School District is the first school district in the United States to implement Tools for Life in its schools. Clinton Park began using this social skills curriculum last year with kindergartners and is using it this year with kindergarten and first-grade students. Next year it will be implemented with second-graders at Northside Elementary.

clinton blog 3

(Clinton Park teachers Gentry Booth, left, and Kasey Ambrose)


“Tools for Life is all about options,” said kindergarten teacher Debbie Sigler. “This program teaches children how to solve problems on their own. They learn communications skills and how to correctly express themselves. There are different ways to solve problems they have with another student.”

Students think about the best way to solve their problem, she said, including sharing, taking turns, compromising, talking it out, ignoring it, walking away, apologizing or asking for help.

“We tell children it’s OK to feel sad, lonely or other emotions, and we learn what we can do to change that,” Sigler said. “They learn to give ‘Put Ups’ which is saying nice things to someone. We talk about how people feel when you are unkind and say mean things to them, or ‘Put
Downs.’ If they say a ‘Put Down,’ then they have to say a ‘Put Up.’”

If a child hits another student, for example, Sigler asks the student what happened and why they hit.

“We talk about it so next time they will know a better way to handle the situation,” she said. “Teachers are merely facilitators. This program helps stop students from being bullies and it prevents bullying before it starts.”

clinton blog 4

(Clinton Park teachers Regina Blackman, left, and Debbie Sigler)


Allen Croxall, president of the Tools for Life Corporation, said the program is not a separate class, but tools that can be incorporated into all lessons as teachers work with students.

“If there are students with aggressive behavior, this can help them change,” he said. “At that age, children may not know how to express what they’re really feeling. This gives teachers options on how they can help children talk about what they’re feeling.”

Some students come from difficult situations at home or just get off to a bad start to the day, he said.

“When children aren’t calm, they can’t hear you,” he said. “With this program, teachers are able to learn what children are dealing with issues and it also helps children with problem solving and respecting each other’s differences.”

Bell said everyone needs relationship-building skills, and Tools for Life is a great starting point.

“It helps teach them how to build relationships that can last a lifetime and learn how to be resilient,” she said. “These are lessons they can use at school, at home and in the community.”

Thanks to Tools for Life for this program and to all the faculty at Clinton Park for their hard work to make this program a success!


Go Arrows!