Be safe, be healthy, and Happy Holidays to all.
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.
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.
Since the start of March our lives have changed dramatically. We’ve shifted our daily routines, the ways in which we interact and connect with others, and how we are able to nourish and sustain our own wellbeing. Many in our communities have lost loved ones, confronted illness, juggled work and family responsibilities, and mustered the resources to make ends meet. Schools, which often serve as a central hub for family support, made an overnight transition to virtual learning. They have had to identify new systems and routines for instruction, connection, and resource delivery all while school personnel negotiate the impact of the changing world in their own lives. Further, the impact of this pandemic and the concurrent national conversation on police violence against the Black community has highlighted the ways in which deep systemic inequities reach across our institutional systems, from health care to criminal justice to education. What is clear is that grand changes are needed in both the short and long term to build more equitable systems.
Through all of these changes what has remained steadfast is our commitment to building systems of education that are strong and inclusive, even in the face of tremendous adversity. Grounded in Seneca’s longstanding mission of connecting with individuals and families during difficult times, we have taken what we know about responding to periods of crisis and applied these same principles to support schools in adapting their practices to the virtual context. We are thrilled to release this piece Implementing Unconditional Education in a Virtual Setting where we have captured what we have learned by working with over 40 schools and districts through this transition to remote learning. This piece is intended to act as a companion to Unconditional Education: Supporting Schools to Serve All Students articulating the adaptations required in the implementation of this framework for a blended or remote learning setting. It aims to highlight how during periods of struggle we can find grounding in the formative beliefs and values that drive our work - our belief in the power of relationship, the collective capacity of teams, and our ability to reach a shared vision when we’ve identified clear goals. In addition, it provides practical considerations for the modification of essential coordination and assessment procedures that drive a multi-tiered system of care. Our hope is to share lessons learned with others who are building systems to support all students, and the adults in their lives, in finding wellness and hope in this challenging time.
We begin this year at the cross-section of the pandemic’s wide-spread impacts within our community and this powerful moment of confrontation with systemic racism and anti-blackness in our country. We are strengthening our resolve to find new and creative ways to meet the deep and varied needs of students and families and address the many forms of racism still present within our child-serving systems of care. In the words of Bettina Love, we must “engage in the struggle for educational justice knowing that [we] have the ability and human right to refute oppression and refuse to oppress others, mainly [our] students.” Our partnerships in schools are built on aligned vision and commitment to creating school communities where all students can thrive. To this end, we have spent time this summer articulating a set of ongoing commitments and a few key areas where we will be dedicating time and attention in the coming months.
Our Ongoing Work:
We recognize that reshaping the educational system is ongoing work and, our hope is that, by starting this conversation with concrete commitments, we can specifically articulate the ways in which anti-racism is part of our work in schools.
We are looking forward to a year of mutual teaching, learning, and growth!
Thank you to the 150+ staff and family members who came out to celebrate the end of the 2019-2020 school year! Our “Drive Through BBQ” provided space to mark this milestone by being in community (safely) with each other and demonstrating our ongoing commitment to racial justice in education and beyond. Thank you for showing up today and every day. #UnconditionalEducation #BlackLivesMatter
The education landscape has shifted drastically over the past weeks and Seneca’s Unconditional Education partner schools are working hard to ensure that all students and families continue to thrive. In an effort to chronicle the innovative shifts in practice that are being made to support students, families, and school partners, UE will be presenting a series of interviews highlighting the work of UE practitioners. Our second conversation is with Theo Grant-Funck, Senior Student Support Assistant at Cox Academy in Oakland.
EdSource recently explored the narratives and challenges of student wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic in their ongoing podcast series, “This Week in California Education.” Tune in and listen to our very own Executive Director of School Partnerships, Robin Detterman, as she shares how staff at Seneca are responsively shifting their practice to ensure students stay connected to the mental health services during this time of remote learning (starting at the 10 minute mark). We want to offer a huge shout out to our team members and all mental health practitioners across the nation who are striving to ensure that all students and families remain connected to community and opportunities for wellness. We appreciate you!
The education landscape has shifted drastically over the past weeks and Seneca’s Unconditional Education partner schools are working hard to ensure that all students and families continue to thrive. In an effort to chronicle the innovative shifts in practice that are being made to support students, families, and school partners, UE will be presenting a series of interviews highlighting the work of UE practitioners. Our fist conversation is with Anna Scaiano, a UE coach at Verde K-8 in West Contra Costa Unified School District.
All-In! Partnership Project’s own March Madness series was a huge success this last month, gaining momentum with each week’s new themes, humor, and staff engagement! In efforts to adapt to the current climate of COVID-19 and the many challenges that arose from transitioning to remote work and services, March Madness served to motivate, appreciate, and celebrate each other through the power of community connection. Below is a full look at the amazing and engaging activities our program took part in last month:
#MYFOURLEGGEDPAL because pets are always our favorites. Three different groups of research found consistent evidence that the relationship you have with your pet can result in greater self-esteem and physical fitness, in addition to making you more conscientious and outgoing (Drewis, 2017). No wonder furry friends always bring folks’ spirits up!
#SELFIESWITHMYPEEPS was the kick-off challenge to demonstrate how our staff handle healthy relationships; this can mean being with the friends who get you, quality family time, lunch with your coworkers, and more.
#SHOWUSHOWYOUCHILL shows a glimpse of the ways we enjoy breaktime at work, such as checking our social media, taking a walk, or take time to gather with co-workers.
#CHEFITUP – what more can we say! Good nutrition is immensely important as your relationship with
food can create a better sense of balance in your life. This is reflected in how balanced and varied your nutrition is, and how well your food serves as your fuel.
#DANCINGWITHMYHOMIES demonstrated the important physical practices our staff keep up. Remember that physical self-care is all things of care for your body, ranging from quality sleep, dancing, getting sunlight, and even going to the dentist!
We hope you are all taking care of yourselves as we try to support others during this challenging time. One of our staff members shared the article "That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief" which frames what we are collectively and individually experiencing during this crisis as grief. It's important to name the actual feelings and reactions we are experiencing that people may not have been able to articulate. Hearing how others are doing and feeling helps all of us stay connected when we are all in isolation. During these last few weeks, working with the All-In! team in San Francisco and the Peninsula has illuminated for us several truths about the resiliency of human beings.
First, people have an enormous capacity to come together, despite any obstacles in their path. When the shelter-in-place ordinance was first rolled out, there was a moment of panic. "Does this mean we can't see our kids and families? How will we continue to serve our school communities?" In the end, it only took one day of planning for Telehealth services to begin in SF and East Palo Alto. Our staff worked together to contact each of our Tier 3 families, assess their preferences around virtual platforms, and schedule sessions. Then, using phone and video platforms, both clinicians and behavioral staff started holding sessions with kids and families the following day. Talk about a quick turnaround!
Second, people have an incredible amount of untapped creativity. We all initially said something to the effect of, "but what are we going to do in a Telehealth session with a five-year-old?" It turns out that the possibilities are endless. One of our behavioral staff had a young client over video walk to the place in her home where she felt the most safe. Then, they walked through a few coping strategies and she practiced utilizing those tools in real time. When are we, as school-based mental health providers, ever able to help kids generalize coping skills into their home environments? Almost never! Another one of our staff figured out how to utilize the "draw" function on one of the virtual platforms and share his screen so that he and the client could create an art piece together. A third staff member read the book The Invisible String to all her clients, exploring themes of community and how they are still connected to their teachers and friends from school. The list of exciting activities is growing each day, as our folks continue to find new ways of engaging their young clients.
Finally, human beings look out for one another and help when needed. Amid Covid-19, there is a substantial waitlist of children and families here in San Francisco who have not been able to access mental health care. In support of our Seneca partners in the San Francisco Connections program, our clinicians and behavioral staff have been able to take on several cases to ensure that these young people receive the socio-emotional supports they need to make it through this global crisis. Our staff have displayed grit, perseverance, and a willingness to go above and beyond in one of the most challenging times that we as a species have experienced.
We have never felt so proud to be a part of this organization and truly believe that my colleagues are some of the strongest, most caring individuals this planet has to offer. As Nelson Mandela said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." Thank you, Seneca’s All-In! family, for your commitment to supporting our kids and families and getting it done!
All-In! Partnership Team