League of Education Voters works with Seattle’s South Shore PreK-8 on their preschool, social emotional learning, and student supports. This blog series focuses on how South Shore engages students who come from a background of trauma.
By Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PreK-8 Assistant Principal
School is an experience that most Americans can relate to. These school experiences, whether public or private, help shape our perception of what a school should be. As our country becomes more and more diverse, the need to diversify supports available at a school have increased as well. Schools have become so much more than places that focus solely on academics, although academics is often the only parameter of how schools are judged.
Many schools in under-served communities often provide meals to the majority of their students. They may also offer social and emotional supports in the form of a school counselor or a Family Support Worker. Here at South Shore, we have decided to prioritize the social and emotional supports of our most vulnerable students. We have done this by reallocating both district funds as well as outside resources to focus on building strong relationships within our school building.
More specifically, during budget meetings staff decided to use funding that previously paid for a House Administrator, a position very much aligned with student discipline, and instead hired a Clinical Specialist to better support our students, staff, and families. This newly created role is a direct, proactive response to the immense amount of outside trauma in our student population. This role also assists with the plethora of outside factors that negatively impact school achievement.
This shift has allowed us to better meet the needs of our student body as well as their families. For example, this year Rachel Madding, our Clinical Specialist, began working with the family of a student who was adopted from Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. As this family joined our building, South Shore’s Clinical Specialist immediately was able to connect and begin building a relationship. The family had moved from a small rural town to Southeast Seattle in the hopes of finding a diverse school that would welcome their blended family. The resources at South Shore allowed this family to feel welcomed and supported.
Getting the support they need
While talking with Jennifer (not her real name) about her experiences at South Shore, she stated, “Being brand new to the school was difficult for my son, especially in the fall. He was helped tremendously by the services provided by Rachel Madding and the teachers and staff at South Shore. My son has been supported in so many ways through the services available here, especially (through) Rachel’s help.
He has been surrounded by caring adults who have given him the support and care he has needed; and I feel very fortunate that these services were available to us. We have both had someone to listen, someone who finds resources for us to access, someone who extends a helping hand whenever it is needed, and that someone is Rachel Madding. We are transitioning to a new school as we are moving and again, Rachel is helping us to make a smooth transition. I am deeply grateful for all the help we have had at South Shore and will miss these caring people very much.”
Some of the services that Rachel provided included connecting them to mental health counseling that not only met with the family in their home, but also at school. Ms. Rachel also provided extensive housing assistance for the family as they became homeless this year. She helped them find more stable housing in a neighborhood with accessible social services. Rachel then assisted the family as they navigated the adoption process including connecting the family with outside agencies, as well as advocating for them as a character reference.
South Shore is creating a model for others
This type of wraparound support is not the norm in public schools. We feel that this support is absolutely necessary to support teachers and families. Teacher education programs rarely prepare teachers to address the many ways students and families may need support. When we can support teachers and students, it is a win-win. Schools that are able to establish authentic and meaningful relationships with families we can then wrap around to provide the consistency needed to set children up for success.
These relationships are built on trust and availability: pillars of a healthy community. This type of support is able to better assist in meeting the needs of all students. It also gives teachers an additional tool to best meet their students needs. When educational institutions begin to think out of the box and truly invest in not only the academic, but the social emotional needs of students, it begins to feel like a real community school that values and supports all families, regardless of need.
Love what we do? Support our work
Want to find out the latest in education news in Washington? Subscribe to our newsletter
Want to learn more about League of Education Voters? Find out here