Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meeting the Needs of the School

I was really looking forward to last Friday’s welcome breakfast with the school administration, but since our interns just started this week (I cannot stress how excited I am to have them with us!) we thought it would be best to reschedule the breakfast for this Friday, when the whole team could be together! In the meantime, we’ve been working diligently to determine which students we should service this year. With the help of the school principal, guidance counselor and teachers we were able to compile a list of new students who are in need. The Partnership team (another social worker, our two FANTASTIC interns, and me!) also took time to review the files of our past students to see if any of them are still in need of continued services. After hours and days of discussion, we came up with a list of 21 high-need individual counseling students and 60 students to be split among our 4 small group programs. Later this year will get a better idea of which classrooms would benefit from our “push in” programs where we work with an entire class to help students master socialization skills.

While all of our programs are invaluable—coming into children’s lives and giving them the social emotional tools they need to better their education—I have to admit the small group sessions are my favorite! Our Boys Group and Girls Group provide students with a safe space to discuss issues that girls and boys face in school, at home, and in the community. Depending on the group dynamic, the Girls Group might focus more on body image or self-esteem, while the Boys Group may focus more on health and hygiene or personal achievement. The content of the groups often overlap, but we find the discussions to be more successful by separating the boys and girls, providing a safer, more honest space.

The other two groups that we’ve created for our older students (4th and 5th graders) help incorporate some career skills too! Partnership with Children’s Newspaper Group allows students, with the assistance of the group facilitators, to create a regularly published newspaper. Students participate in all aspects of the production, including writing, contributing ideas for content, editing, layout and distribution. Students learn to work efficiently in small groups, build literacy and writing skills, develop leadership skills and of course have a record of their achievement though school and home distribution of their paper.

Similarly, the School Bookstore Group teaches students the skills to run a successful business, helping students develop and cultivate skills in entrepreneurship, money management, citizenship and leadership. Over time, the job skills and service of the students running the bookstore, as well as the students and school staff that purchase items at the bookstore, contribute to an overall positive school community.

All four groups help to successfully address social, emotional and behavioral issues, making students more ready to learn, but they each achieve this in such unique ways. I’m so excited to meet the students as they come into these groups and witness their progress over the year. Not only are we providing students with the skills they need to achieve more in the classroom, but we’re also providing valuable life skills that can help them succeed far beyond the school room.

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