Be safe, be healthy, and Happy Holidays to all.
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My role as a Student Support Assistant has primarily involved supporting students in being the best version of themselves at school and beyond. While on campus, this mostly involved providing academic support, behavioral guidance, incentives, redirections, positive reinforcements, conflict resolution, etc. However, in the world of distance learning, this support has looked a lot different. It became evident that the primary needs coming up for students were not just related to school. Due to the pandemic and its various consequences, students have communicated to me that their families are experiencing significant financial hardships: they are unable to eat breakfast, or they have run out of soap and shampoo because their families cannot afford groceries or supplies. I quickly came to realize that these needs come first: it is nearly impossible to succeed in school with a hungry belly, or without being able to feel clean.
It was with this knowledge that I was able to mobilize members of the community to donate items and funds to support the students and families who were struggling most. Through the generosity of the local community, we raised over $4,000, four car loads of soaps, shampoos, diapers, etc. and have partnered with a local food distribution company to provide monthly produce donations to consistently provide families with healthy and fresh food. The funds have supported families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19, covering funeral costs. The hygiene supplies and household items have been set up on display in one of the classrooms on campus as a “free store” where families can visit and “shop” for what they need. The produce has provided families with pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to create healthy and sustainable meals for the entire family unit.
We have all had to think outside the box as school staff this year, tailoring our supports beyond just the school, and seeing the WHOLE child and the real time issues coming up for each student. I feel it a privilege during this holiday season to hold the title as a Student Support Assistant, and to support and assist students and families in a meaningful way during this difficult year.
Be safe, be healthy, and Happy Holidays to all.
Many of our school partners have challenged themselves to push the limits of distance learning for their staff and students. Our partners at Summit K2 and Summit Tamalpais are no different. I am excited to share some of the innovative ways that our staff have collaborated with these Summit schools to implement the vision of Unconditional Education in the virtual world.
Summit K2 and Summit TAM serve a diverse population of middle and high school students from the West Contra Costa County School District. We have partnered with K2 and TAM since their openings, in 2014 and 2016 respectively, to provide Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) and other Special Education supports and consultation. Currently, we have three clinicians providing ERMHS to the K2 and TAM school communities: Hannah Hernandez, Doug Woodson, and Shannah Roston-Cooper. Laura Lin oversees the Summit Partnership and I provide clinical supervision and consultation. The work of an ERMHS provider is usually limited to serving only students on the ERMHS caseloads. Our team has expanded the impact of our role by creatively partnering with Summit to support the needs of their larger school community as well.
Since the shelter in place order went into effect in March 2020, our staff have collaborated with Summit leadership and special education teams to come up with ideas to address some of the most pressing issues facing students, families, and staff: equity, empathy, and connection (to the work and to each other). Here are some examples:
I am appreciative of the strong relationships that we’ve built with our partners at Summit K2 and Summit Tam and of ways that our teams center the voices and experiences of students, families, and the community.
Children’s books have always been central to my life. As a child, I was the bookworm at the library every week filling up my bag to the brim with new stories to get lost in. In college I took as many classes on children’s literature as I could manage. As an early childhood teacher, I relished in finding books that my students connected with. And now as a parent, I sit for hours on end with my 2-year-old in the evenings and on weekends, passing on my love for stories (and the local library).
We know that diverse representation in literature is central to creating an affirming, healing-centered, hope-filled experience for our children and our students. And, in Mindshift’s recent article, Diversifying Your Classroom Book Collections? Avoid these 7 Pitfalls, we are reminded that “building a classroom library that offers ‘windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors’ to all children is more than a numbers game. It requires thoughtful curation of who is represented and how.”
If you are supporting the literary experience of students at home or in the classroom, please enjoy this article that covers seven pitfalls to avoid when deciding what to leave in and out, as well as book recommendations for early childhood, middle grades, and young adults! Here’s a sneak peek at the seven pitfalls:
Click the link to the article above and read on to learn more!
Like most students across the country, the Washington Elementary community also began their 2020-21 Academic School year virtually from home. Starting the year with distance learning meant that Leadership had to be creative and think out of the box to keep students connected to school – all whilst maintaining a strong sense of community. Research has shown that creating a sense of belonging and building relationships is critical to ensure students remain engaged and enthusiastic learners. While everything about back-to-school was different, we wanted to create a sense of normalcy by translating our regular routines and practices into virtual platforms. So, we implemented our Monday Morning Announcement videos! The videos were a great way for everyone to start the week with the same message and have opportunities to participate in different challenges and activities as a whole school.
Our Monday Morning Announcement videos have become the catch-all for maintaining consistent connection (virtually) and encouraging our students to be academically motivated and committed to school. We have introduced fun reading challenges for all grade levels and have students submit fun videos with books reviews. We have also used this opportunity to bring the campus to our students – even though they cannot physically be on campus. Each week we reinforce our Dragon values and encourage students to demonstrate our characteristics of being Resilient, Flexible, Empathetic, Persistent and Optimistic. Here is a sample of our Monday Morning Announcements:
The Monday Morning Announcements are the highlight of the week for a lot our students, and we are seeing more and more participation from our Dragon Heroes. Our discussion forum on the announcements is a great place for students to motivate and encourage their peers to work hard and spread joy. The weekly announcements have also helped us achieve our AIP goal of increasing school pride and incorporating more student voice-and-choice in our decision-making processes. Creating this feeling of belonging by fostering school-wide connections between teachers, students and administrators has truly enhanced our virtual learning experience, and hence, we would love to hear from you too! Please share your great ideas for community building and fostering connection during distance in the comments below.
Some partnerships are built to last. Daniel Webster and Starr King began their Seneca All-In! partnerships back in 2014 under the Investing in Innovations (I3) Grant and began with the full UE model. Our exceptional UE coaches, Laura Lin and Trevor Burns, helped the schools build out their PBIS systems, SEL curriculum, and other elements of school culture and climate. We were able to add mental health services through Medi-Cal and provide tier 3 services to kids and families at each school.
When the I3 grant came to an end, we were able to maintain our relationships with Daniel Webster and Starr King, and continue the Medi-Cal-funded mental health work. Now, our amazing clinicians, Jill Salak and Mark McKillips, continue this legacy of high-quality socio-emotional supports at our Potrero Hill partner schools.
In addition, we are able to provide consultation around tier 1 systems so that both schools can maintain the beautiful work they did under the I3 grant.
Due to these successes, we were able to add 3 new SFUSD schools to our list of partners this year!
Go, All-In San Francisco!
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