Tips from the Trenches: Student Services
During the last few months, I have had the chance to talk with several speakers who strongly affected their audiences. I started to think about the remarkable leaders with whom I have worked over the years and how they have made huge differences with their incredible wisdom, insight, and actions. I contacted some of them and asked them to comment on working in education in these difficult times. I asked them to share some take-away messages, so that, if they were speaking, what would they want their audience to remember? Read the other installments in the series: school safety, administration, and teaching.
Students are more than grade-point averages. Often they are faced with many barriers to effective education. Dealing with the whole child, and not just the academic child, can help facilitate learning. Safe and healthy students learn more. Here are some "Tips from the Trenches" about the value of supporting students.
Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, codirectors of whole child partner Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA:
- "School improvement policy and practice continues to give short shrift to addressing barriers to learning and teaching and re-engaging disconnected students. As a result, critical factors interfering with student performance, progress, and well-being continue to be marginalized at schools."
- "The time is long overdue for moving in new directions for student and learning supports. This entails reframing student and learning supports into a unified and comprehensive system that is fully integrated into the school improvement agenda at every school. And, developing, implementing, and sustaining such a system calls for revamping operational infrastructures to redeploy and weave school and community resources together."
Brian Law, school counselor at Valdosta (Ga.) High School and 2010–11 president of whole child partner American School Counselor Association:
"If I could mandate three laws about education, they would be
- Enacting stricter anti-bullying laws in the schools, mandating teacher training to recognize the signs of bullying of all students, and requiring reporting of bullying incidents;
- Funding school counselors in K–12 at a ratio of 1:250; and
- Mandating graduation plans emphasizing college and career readiness that begin in elementary school."
Donna Mazyck, executive director of whole child partner National Association of School Nurses:
"As noted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, school nurses play a vital role by enabling children's health and learning. A school nurse in a school building saves principals, teachers, and clerical staff a considerable amount of time by addressing health concerns of students. A school nurse in the building saves
- Principals almost an hour a day.
- Teachers almost 20 minutes a day.
- Clerical staff more than 45 minutes a day."
Judith Kullas Shine, president of the American Council for School Social Work:
- "Schools exist not only to instill facts and figures into developing brains, but to help parents to shape their children into whole human beings who understand how we depend upon each other to make the world work."
- "When making decisions about services and programs we must think first and always about the students we serve and their needs. We cannot abandon them in favor of political expediency or balanced budgets."
- "Students cannot learn, cannot achieve, if their basic needs of food, shelter, emotional support, and safety are unmet."
- "One role of the school social worker is to ensure that each student has these needs at least minimally met in order to provide them with the opportunity to self-actualize."
Marleen Wong, assistant dean and clinical professor at the University of Southern California and former director of Crisis Counseling Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District:
- "Educators are becoming more aware that the challenges of education are not only behavioral, but are linked to the exposure to violence and trauma in their students' lives. Research has shown that students exposed to community or in home violence, as victims or witnesses, have lower rates of attendance and graduation from high school, lower reading scores, and high rates of expulsion and suspension."
- "My work is with the development of the next generation of professional social workers with advanced degrees, who can work to prevent violence and provide early intervention for youth who live in troubled and chaotic environments."
Harold Shinitzky, sports psychologist, coauthor of Your Mind: An Owner's Manual for a Better Life, and motivational speaker based in Clearwater, Fla.:
- "As a preventionist, we have learned from the research that our students need basic reading, writing, and math skills as they transition from junior high to high school."
- "The keys to success include self-discipline, self-worth, and selflessness."
- "Self-discipline is the capacity to be resilient and steadfast. Never give up."
- "Self-worth is believing in yourself, your value, your rights, and your dreams."
- "Selflessness is developing an attitude of gratitude. Help make the lives of others better."
Bill Stencil, manager for psychological services and flexible content expert for Humanware/SEL with the Cleveland (Ohio) Metropolitan School District:
- "Collaboration leads to good decision-making."
- "Take the time to do it right the first time."
- "We as adults must model our expectations."
- "Don't just tell them what they did wrong, instruct them on the appropriate behavior."
- "My five guiding principles: Self-discipline, consistency, communication, persistence, and compassion."
Christopher Thurber, board-certified clinical psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, consultant, and coauthor of The Summer Camp Handbook:
- "More than ever, young people need kind role models who take time to listen. Pop culture is replete with hyper-sexualized and superficial role models that leave young people interpersonally stranded."
- "When adults emulate unselfish behavior, both in and out of formal academic settings, they set a sterling example for young people to follow."
- "And when those same adults stop wondering 'What should I say?' and simply listen, then the message to young people is clear: 'I care about you. And I can tolerate your distress, whatever the cause.' It's at that moment that we educators discover that most young people are smart enough to solve their own problems."
Barbara Wand James, project director at the Texas Homeless Education Office and 2002–03 president of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth:
- "Kids who are homeless do not create their situations. They can't help it if their parents can't find work and can't give them the things they need to be successful in school, such as eyeglasses. Sometimes they will fall asleep in class—it's hard to stay awake when they had to sleep in a car and fear for their safety. In spite of all these and more challenges, homeless kids want to succeed."
- "It's up to us as the grown-ups to change our schools and systems to make it possible for them to succeed and break the cycle of homelessness."
Scott Poland, professor at the Center for Psychological Studies, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Fla., and past president of whole child partner National Association of School Psychologists:
- "Schools are the safest places children go, but one violent death on a school campus is one too many."
- "We must end the 'conspiracy of silence' that allows weapons in school and for homicidal and suicidal threats to go unreported to adults."
- "Schools need to form safety task forces that involve students and get a commitment from all students to improve school safety."
- "Massive secondary schools face a particular challenge to develop positive relationships between all students and staff members."
- "Every student needs to know that school staff care about their hopes and dreams."
- "It is time that schools face the fact that suicide is the third leading cause of death for students and that talking about suicide does not plant the idea in their head."
- "Schools need to form a task force for suicide prevention and link with community resources. Staff and students need to be provided with key information about the warning signs of suicide and that suicidal thoughts are situational."
- "There is help available for suicidal students. Youth suicides can be prevented if everyone knows what to look for and where to go for help!"
© 2013 Stephen R. Sroka, PhD, Lakewood, Ohio. Used with permission.
Stephen Sroka, PhD, is an adjunct assistant professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and president of Health Education Consultants. He has worked in schools for more than 30 years. Connect with Sroka on his website or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.