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An open letter on "sound baths" to River Forest, District 90 Roosevelt Middle School Psychologist

Updated: Mar 2

Policy and practices of equal opportunity that maximize academic achievement through proven curricula and instructional practices is the focus here at E3.  Today though, the response is more questions than answers when it comes to who, how, and when teachers should take student mental health into their own hands in River Forest, or anywhere for that matter.

 

Kicking it off - an investigative segment with links to two articles and a letter sent 2/29 to Roosevelt Middle School Psychologist Fenner Oosterban asking some key questions, questions that undoubtedly will keep the E3 critics happy.

 

The first article describes a three year history of “sound bath’s” in a Roosevelt Middle School communications class as one teachers approach to mental health.  How a Roosevelt teacher uses sound baths to aid her students - Wednesday Journal 

 

This River Forest article comes as an interesting second article on therapeutic practices in schools appeared from a national outlet, the Free Press How Bad Therapy Hijacked Our Nation’s Schools

 

It’s mind-bending to read one right after the other, with that bend slightly straightened when you recall District 90 had fended off reading and math wars until a community’s trust in its schools became its biggest weakness.  Equal outcome, social justice, missing meeting minutes, starting Lucy Calkins with the knowledge it fails students, the all-new edu-speak, and a school board president compensated by Chicago’s teacher’s union.  You could make this stuff up, but in River Forest you don’t have too!

 

Your assignment – read the two articles above and the letter to Fenner below. SUBSCRIBE to E3 if you haven’t. We'll do the very best to continue reporting on what we learn from Fenner and others on "sound baths" and the impact on student mental health.


*****

Hi Fenner,


I’m a RF resident, huge fan of D90 and educational excellence, and I do question-asking and watchdog work left undone by other local media etc. Most of the time I’m responding to community concerns where parents and teachers are too afraid to ask for themselves because of examples of retribution.  I’ve copied Larry and Ed here too.


My question is whether you have any professional psychological thoughts on pros/cons of what Tara Zinger is doing with prolonged periods of “sound baths” for all students in her class as was described in the article below.  If it’s different from what was described, then that information will help too.



I don’t think anyone would disagree arming kids with simple tools to settle and ready their minds for learning is great.  Still, the article on Tara’s practice is juxtaposed to work in the same area that suggests too much time to ruminate etc. can have negative effects.  See the article below for more. 



It seems one important factor in the positive impact of prolonged periods like “sound baths” is what’s already going on in the mind of the student, the mood of the classroom, the culture of the school, district etc.  D90 surveys, the phone calls from parents and teachers, increased rate of resignation, academic decline since adopting an equal outcome policy, all support what the board and admin has been saying about RMS student mental health for several years, some fraction may need clinical help, but many have lower mental health compared to years before 2016.  I understand at some point it’s difficult to separate the symptom from the actual problem after years of decline.


Summed up, a concern is Tara Zinger may be using a technique that a clinical psychologist would use to help some, but the “climate” circumstances within RMS combined with “sound baths” for all students in Taras communications class, may have a net negative impact on RMS student mental health.  Your help understanding this is greatly appreciated. 


Specifically – Tara has been doing this for three years - have you or other qualified psychologists reviewed and approved Tara’s practices.  If yes, can you share the basis of your support, how you are measuring impact, and these measures before and since “sound baths”.


Does Mrs. Zinger have qualifications for psychotherapy that are not evident in her school profile?


Fenner my questions for you are focused on the phycological and mental health of students, not the best use of time, Tara’s communications curriculum, RMS or district academics etc.


I appreciate your help in understanding these circumstances and I’m open to a phone call too.


**********


Fenner Oosterbaan’s nationally certified school psychologist credentials were issued in 2018, soon after being a Student Research Assistant at Loyola University working in Dr. Pamela Fenning’s School to Prison Pipeline & Critical Race Theory Research Team.  Oosterbaan’s LinkedIn profile cites “Research Critical Race Theory and apply it to an educational setting Review current literature on education and racism, discipline, disproportionality, microaggressions, juvenile detention centers, etc.”


ISBE 2023 reports 68% and 44% proficiency in English language arts for white and black students at Roosevelt Middle School, respectively.  Proficiency in math for the same period and subgroups is reported as 64% and 32%.



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