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.
The All-In Leadership Team has committed to reflecting on their personal and professional perpetuation of White Supremacy culture while unlearning and relearning how to dismantle oppressive systems within our program and teams. Through this, we have developed a deeper understanding of what it means to bring equity to the forefront of our work.
Historically, the Behavioral Leadership Team has planned their Professional Learning Community’s scope and sequence for the upcoming school year during the previous summer. This systematic planning consisted of coordinating the facilitation of professional development training with other leaders in our program.
This year, in attempt to build an inclusive environment focused on equity, our Behavior Leadership Team began to dive into dismantling and disrupting White Supremacy culture within our Professional Learning Community. We have applied strategies to shift dynamics of White Supremacy Culture in our work based on Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun’s 15 Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.
The Behavioral Team acknowledges both the spoken and unspoken norms that exist within our strand, and we are working on a collaborative approach that will push us forward, shifting:
In shifting those norms, we have:
White dominant culture has been adopted by many of us through spoken and unspoken norms. Both have contributed to my personal social identity and how I navigate spaces as a Black woman. To increase the eradication of White Supremacy Culture, the Behavioral Strand continues to attend and encourage others to attend development opportunities facilitated by BIPOC people.
Here are a few resources that I have enjoyed reading. Take a look and leave a comment if you’ve read any, or plan on reading any in the future:
Another brisk cool morning in Oakland, I stood next to my student, bending my knees to look into their eyes. My knees had not grown weary of the numerous times I have lowered my body to converse with a student eye to eye. This morning, at Lazear Charter Academy, began with a series of exploratory questions of my student's physical & emotional well-being. However, today this student, amid the brisk air and cold metal rail that spied on this interaction, would say something different. The student said something I did not expect. The student told me…
The importance of the social-emotional aspect of children, which the book Unconditional Education highlights, has recently gained attention in the world of education. This shift of thought transpired in the mid-20th century. The previous sentiment can be encapsulated by the phrase, “children should be seen and not heard,” which refers to a cultural belief that children’s perspectives were inferior in comparison to their older counterparts. Thanks to people in medicine, popular media, and education, we have made strides in recognizing that children should not only be seen and heard, but also understood. UE emphasizes that the social-emotional strand of children should be acknowledged and taken seriously. This post is an introduction to resources that can be implemented in classrooms and workplaces that support the social-emotional aspect of school communities.
In his book, Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive, Professor Mark Brackett, Director of Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, discusses the importance of creating holistic education that does not just focus on academics, but addresses the emotional needs of children. In 2019, Greater Good Magazine interviewed Dr. Brackett, which mentioned how he “led the development of
an emotional skills building program called R.U.L.E.R.”
Children’s Television Host and Advocate Fred Rogers once said, “feelings are mentionable and manageable.” Allowing others to talk about feelings with trusted people creates a positive difference in the school environment and culture.
Below is an excerpt from the book Permission to Feel by Professor Brackett that briefly outlines the 5 emotional skills as part of the R.U.L.E.R program:
… with a sudden pause, looking at me with curiosity. The student inquired,
“How [is]... your day?”
What may seem as a simple question is actually a great opportunity for deeper intrinsic connection between two people. The way I respond can make all the difference in role modeling the importance of earnestness when it comes to our feelings. We know children “don’t do what we say but do as we do.” A question like, “how is your day?” from others, usually constitutes a “fine,” “good,” or “alright” answer, but what does that tell our children about our value to feelings?
How would you respond?
Our age-appropriate responses to one another can make all the difference in creating generational social-emotional awareness and demonstrating to our children that emotions are signs of our humanity, rather than our weakness.
As a response to feeling unseen and a sense of confusion from staff about our model of inclusion at Learning without Limits (LWL), Student Support Services Coordinator Katie Ruffman and I decided to write weekly blog updates on the work that the Special Education staff, also named the Learning Lab Team, at LWL was doing. We specifically wanted to highlight the work that the Learning Lab Team covered in our monthly meetings that we felt was important to share out and norm on as a whole school. We called them Learning Lab Blasts! Our first two posts have included information about positive breaks and how we respond to property destruction. The latest blog post that you can read below is about what general education staff can do when they see a crisis occurring. This is a resource that I wanted to share out because when a student is in crisis, it is easy for folks outside of the special education team to feel like “a deer in headlights,” or respond in a way that can intensify the crisis.
Here are some helpful tips that I hope you can share with your school communities so that folks are normed on how to support during a crisis.
February Learning Lab Blasts!
All-In! Partnership Team