“We give personal learning classes on friendships, community, self-management and coping skills. It’s like SALT on steroids.
—Marti Velasco, San Juan Teachers Association
“We are really hitting anxiety hard. Develop these skills so that they can cope, ”explains school counselor Marti Velasco. “If we don’t address mental health, learning will not take place. “
At Sylvan Middle School in the San Juan Unified School District, Velasco is part of a school response team of educators and student support staff that ensures students get the support they need. , whether academic or otherwise.
“We try to look at the child as a whole. Maybe the student is going through difficult times and we put them in touch with a social worker. Sometimes it’s food or clothes. That’s all that child or their family needs to be successful in the classroom, ”says Velasco, a member of the San Juan Teachers Association. “Our main goal at all times is to support this student and [have them] stay in class so they can learn.
The keen eye on students’ socio-emotional needs and the trauma-informed approach is common practice at Sylvan and other schools in San Juan Unified, but has intensified as students return to the schools. campus after the challenges of the past year and a half. Velasco started planning this school year last year, with outreach to primary primary schools to identify students who might need extra support, connect them with caring adults and implement a peer support system where eighth grade students trained in support skills are paired with sixth grade students.
“The year of transition from elementary to college is difficult. We do a lot of our socio-emotional classes on friendships, community, self-management and coping skills, ”says Velasco, school counselor in San Juan since 2006.“ It’s like SALT on steroids.
Math teacher David Vazquez is a member of the design team at Katherine Johnson Middle School in San Juan, which is opening for the first time this school year. As students arrive on campus, he says, the goal is to immediately begin to create a sense of belonging, using the Ron Clark Academy House system to build community together (see sidebar below).
“Students need something to channel this energy,” says Vazquez, a member of the San Juan Teachers Association. “It’s new, and we’re making it into something that’s going to be spectacular.”
With many students away from the physical classroom environment for a while, Vazquez says, it will be necessary to practice social skills, as well as focus on building student-teacher relationships. Multidisciplinary learning support teams are already in place to help identify students with needs and connect them with support and services. Students of Katherine Johnson and Sylvan will also have a flexible period during which they will receive timely supports as well as a choice of enrichment, visual and performing arts courses at Vazquez’s offering on solar power. and renewable. Velasco says Sylvan’s flex time will include groups on anxiety, organization, and anger management – sessions students have said they want.
“The tone we would like to set is ‘You have your place here’ and we want to build a strong relationship before entering the curriculum,” says Vazquez, a 10-year-old educator. “You have to take your time to build this.”
The preparation to start the year is enormous, says Vazquez, with the staff spending a full week together to prepare for the experience they want to give students when they enter campus. Velasco continues to do professional development with educators on topics as serious and important as recognizing signs of suicidality in students.
“We’re going to give teachers the tools to get the support they need,” says Velasco. “Everyone walks through the door with different needs. “
The Ron Clark Academy House System
The system randomly assigns incoming students and all staff to four houses – learning and leadership communities – where students stay all of their years in school. Houses are meant to foster a closer connection between students of all skill levels and interests, as houses hold healthy competitions with each other in academic arenas and elsewhere. Read more on rcahousesystem.com.
The California Department of Education recently released a suite of transformative social and emotional learning (T-SEL) tools to help educators support the child as a whole. The material includes T-SEL skills from kindergarten to adult; T-SEL conditions to thrive; and resources to support implementation. These tools, developed by the State Team on Social and Emotional Learning of the CDE 2020, aim to build on and respond to the call of stakeholders to integrate the equity-focused T-SEL into every teaching and learning context of the public education system.
Download the T-SEL resources at cde.ca.gov/ci/se/tsel.asp.
Create support schools
Tips from Marti Velasco and David Vazquez as the students return to school:
- Be deliberate. Actively work to support the socio-emotional needs of students.
- It’s all about relationships. Focus on building relationships with students.
- Take care. You have to be good to help your students.
- Every student is different. Recognize that some will need more support than others.
- if you see something, say something. Identify students who might need help and connect them to support systems.
- It will take time. Be patient. Building relationships and supporting the socio-emotional needs of students is necessary for learning to occur.