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.
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!
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:
Seneca launched a new partnership with Malcolm X Academy, an SFUSD elementary school, in the midst of a pandemic; and despite the fact that the team is redefining elementary school for this virtual age, they have also hit the ground running in their MTSS implementation. Here are two examples of how this small but mighty school is taking the tiers online...
Virtual School Store
With a renewed focus on their Class Dojo system, teachers have been shelling out points to students for showing up to class on time, presenting with the required materials, keeping their camera on and mics muted, and participating in class discussion. In just one week, Malcolm X teachers awarded a whopping 3600 points to students across the school. Wowza! But what do students do with those precious little points anyway, you ask? That's where the new and improved Virtual School Store comes into play. Each week, students select from an updated virtual menu. Using their Dojo points, they can preorder snappy school supplies, fidget tools, and cool Warriors gear. There is a weekly pickup time where kids and families swing by campus to collect their purchases. This also creates an opportunity for in-person connection between families and school staff, and it's all centered around celebrating positive behaviors. Way to go, Malcolm X!
Strengths-Based Socio-Emotional Screener
Along with a few other schools in the All-In SF family, Malcolm X is part of a small pilot this year. Our Strategic Initiatives Team designed a strengths-based version of our Socio-Emotional Screener adapted for the virtual classroom. Teachers took 15-20 minutes to rate their students across ten strength areas, including positive interactions with peers, positive or stable mood, and developmentally appropriate organizational skills. This data is then aggregated into a fancy Tableau report, which enables the school team to analyze socio-emotional skills across grade levels, individual classrooms, and the entire student body. Starting next week, Malcolm X will engage in the "Classroom SST process." In these meetings, our fabulous UE Coach, Marianne Clark, and the school social worker will meet with each teacher to review their classroom data. From these meetings, teachers can identify themes to be addressed in their socio-emotional learning lessons and identify students to refer to CCT (an SFUSD process that is similar to COST). The data will also be taken to the School Climate Team to identify tier 1 goals and interventions. We cannot wait to see all of the fantastic supports that are put in place as a result of this work.
Unconditional Education is about partnering with schools to create innovative programs that serve high-needs students in effective, inclusive, and individualized ways. It’s about disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline whereby students are pushed out of “mainstream”/general education spaces and into more restrictive settings, or where students internalize a sense of hopelessness regarding their ability to succeed academically and leave school altogether. It is providing more and more opportunities for students to be integrated into their greater school communities instead of being segregated, “othered,” marginalized, or left behind. It is working intentionally to undo the biases that drive and perpetuate the enormous gaps in educational opportunities and achievement that exist in our country’s schools across identity groups.
One of my favorite parts of this work is starting new school partnerships where we co-create programs and supports that operationalize those ambitions and intentions. This year our program is grateful to have that opportunity to co-create with the school leaders and staff of KIPP Bridge Rising in West Oakland. This is a school community that holds their location with pride, near DeFramery Park (aka Lil Bobby Hutton Memorial Park), where the Black Panther Party so often gathered to organize, innovate, and envision during their era.
Student supports and programs in the fall of 2020 are, of course, unique and distinct from any other chapter of history. Now more than ever school communities must take a holistic view in supporting students and families. In our KIPP Bridge Rising partnership, Clinical Intervention Specialist Makalah Fleming-McElroy is emphasizing the importance of considering the hierarchy of needs as we design supports and interventions for students and families. Across our Bay Area partnerships, we’re committed to expanding the range of our services as much as possible in this uniquely challenging time, to increase vital case management services and resource support to families experiencing food insecurity, housing instability, lack of access to technology, and challenges with other foundational basic needs. With resonance and respect to the Ten Point Platform of the Black Panther Party (as relevant in 2020 as it was when Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wrote it in 1966), we’re working to braid together the threads of physical, economic, and emotional wellness - all of which are required in order for academic engagement and success to occur.
Name: Makalah Fleming-McElroy
Position: Clinical Intervention Specialist, KIPP Bridge Rising
What led you to your current position? Ever since I can remember, I knew that I was put on this earth to change the world. Through a compilation of personal experiences that consisted of both challenges and triumphs, I have learned exactly how I can do just that! I am driven by this passion and know that it is my duty to fulfill it, ensuring to constantly plug in to make sure that the work I do is always a reflection of that.
On top of having the opportunity to teach little brown children their worth, how to better understand themselves, and how their experiences can build towards meaningful outcomes/solutions, I get to teach pivotal adults in their lives to do the same which feels like a dream come true… I literally get to do my “heart work” every day.
What inspires you to do this work? Knowing the beauty and limitlessness of unconditional love, work, and care. Being a little black girl, now 25-year-old woman, from East Oakland California, understanding the beauty and struggle of that experience and position. The realization that the intentional, unconditional love that I received despite circumstance is the direct force which helped me transcend barriers has pushed me to want to introduce this possibility and be that person for other children, especially those of color within this community. That then, they may see, know and understand just how valuable and limitless they are despite the constraints that the world and sometimes even their own communities/families have both knowingly and unknowingly put on them.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned in this role? One huge lesson I have learned and pivotal reminder for me within this work is the importance of authenticity and learning to bring yourself fully, wholly and unapologetically to the table for discussions with parents, children, teachers, leaders and other collaborators. Although the knowledge I learned in undergrad and the achievement of my Master’s degree is key …. My personal experience, outlook, realness and twist to it all is therapeutic within itself too and is something I must never doubt. I have found the most substantial healing-- for myself and the little lives I touch comes when I show up in that way.
These children and families already have the tools within themselves for healing and success… it is just my duty to help them uncover it, see what’s possible and keep as well as utilize their unique vision for their lives as the propelling force and source.
Share your life motto or something unique about yourself: I strive to live every day in authentic power-- when your personality comes to serve the very essence of your soul, you will know power, “authentic power”.
Recently, I have found myself struggling to find the words to describe what I am feeling in my body and heart as I move along my work week. The effects of the complex trauma present in our local, state, and national communities is bubbling up within me and it can feel like it is everywhere I look. It can be overwhelming and, at times, paralyzing. Stopping me in my tracks, distracting me from what I’m trying to focus on. In any given moment I can find myself moving between feeling angry, sad, distracted, and joyful.
This experience is not one I am alone in. That, I know. When I think about it, this is an experience my ancestors knew all too well. In many ways, it was and still is a story of pain, state sanctioned violence, discrimination, and resilience. Stories they passed onto me through generations. These stories are alive in my body even though my mind is not always conscious of them. It is this knowledge and understanding that I try to stay connected to as much as I can. Resilience and practices of healing are something my body knows. For us, tending to wellness has not been a convenient choice but something needed in order to survive. I know the choices I make now impact the legacy of harm or healing I will eventually leave with this world.
I think often about the various needs we all have when it comes to healing. Today, I looked to art to help me along my day. Political art has a history in justice movements to heal, protest and resist. The presence of political art and expression of culture is necessary in any healing centered community. The song “A Long Time Coming” by Las Cafeteras spoke to me and helped me move through what was in my body. Today, I choose to sing and dance to resist.
What are you doing during these times to help you connect with your sense of resiliency? What are you doing to tend to your healing both personally and in community with others?
All-In! Partnership Team