Monday, August 13, 2018

SEL and Afterschool Are the Perfect Match: 5 Reasons Why

By Guest Blogger, Bridget Laird

Bridget Laird
Recently, I wrote a piece for Education Week regarding why SEL and after-school are a perfect match. Below I offer an excerpt from that article

Social and emotional skills are a critical part of every child's development. Likewise, after-school and out-of-school programming have a significant impact on young people and provide them with the opportunity to explore new ideas and develop important skills through real-world experiences and engaging activities.

After-school programs that incorporate social and emotional learning set kids up to succeed in the classroom, be prepared for the workplace, and thrive in life. Here are five reasons why social and emotional learning and after-school are the perfect match.

Photo Credit: Youth Institute, LBYMCA
1. Non-traditional learning environments help kids develop and practice social and emotional skills. Building kids' social and emotional skills can happen anywhere, from math class to the basketball court. But the energetic, flexible, and supportive nature of after-school programs creates a unique opportunity for kids to learn and practice these skills in ways that feel less like the classroom and more like real life.

2. Kids can prepare for successful careers before they leave elementary school. After-school programs provide kids with the opportunity to explore interests and develop skills that will lead to success in college and career. When students select the activities they're interested in, take on leadership roles in group projects, and participate in service learning, they build key skills like problem-solving, communicating clearly, and embracing differences that translate into competencies employers look for. 

Photo Credit: WINGS for Kids
3. After-school program leaders become role models and mentors. After-school program leaders are caring, trusted adults who can have a profound and positive influence on the kids they work with. When social and emotional learning is emphasized in both programming for kids and training for after-school leaders, adults are able to model their own skills and intentionally infuse them into every interaction with kids. 

4. Research shows the positive impact of high-quality after-school social and emotional programming. A growing body of evidence tells us that quality after-school social and emotional learning has far-reaching, positive effects on students. We see that kids with strong social and emotional skills are more likely to earn a high school diploma, attain a college degree, and have a full-time job. Studies also show that regular participation in these programs results in increased empathy and self-confidence, improved grades and test scores, positive behaviors, and an increased attachment to school. WINGS' recent randomized control trial (RCT) study provides firsthand examples: students who participated in WINGS for two years exhibited improved executive function and self-regulation, reduced hyperactivity and negative behavior, and improved quality of relationships with teachers.

Photo Credit: NHP Foundation
5. Social and emotional learning in after-school changes lives. Research reports can tell us a lot about the effects that we can see, but only those who participate in and lead these programs every day can truly share the impact they feel. For example, Jessica, a former program leader, used lessons that we teach in our program and our Words to Live By to help a student get through a difficult time after moving away from her home. 

Bridget Laird is Chief Executive Officer of WINGS for Kids, a nationwide after-school program focused solely on bringing SEL to at-risk kids. Follow WINGS on Twitter at @wingsforkids.

To view a guest blog post by Julia Rugg, Chief Strategy Officer at WINGS for Kids, click here

Friday, August 3, 2018

Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement

By Sam Piha

Photo Credit:
Shawn Ginwright is a university professor, author, activist, and youth program leader. He is also a leading voice in the expanded learning field, deepening our understanding of new concepts and frameworks by bringing in the importance of context, culture, and race. 

Dr. Ginwright recently authored an article entitled Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement. Below we offer a few excerpts from his article and urge everyone to read it in its entirety.

“Practitioners and policy stakeholders have recognized the impact of trauma on learning, and healthy development. Trauma informed care broadly refers to a set of principles that guide and direct how we view the impact of severe harm on young people’s mental, physical and emotional health. Trauma informed care encourages support and treatment to the whole person, rather than focus on only treating individual symptoms or specific behaviors.

While trauma informed care offers an important lens to support young people who have been harmed and emotionally injured, it also has its limitations. For me, I realized the term slipped into the murky water of deficit based, rather than asset driven strategies to support young people who have been harmed. Without careful consideration of the terms we use, we can create blind spots in our efforts to support young people.”

Dr. Shawn Ginwright
He goes on to explain how current formulations of trauma informed care presumes that the trauma is an individual experience, rather than a collective one:

“To illustrate this point, researchers have shown that children in high violence neighborhoods all display behavioral and psychological elements of trauma…

Second, trauma informed care requires that we treat trauma in people but provides very little insight into how we might address the root causes of trauma in neighborhoods, families, and schools. If trauma is collectively experienced, this means that we also have to consider the environmental context that caused the harm in the first place. By only treating the individual we only address half of the equation leaving the toxic systems, policies and practices neatly intact.

Third, the term trauma informed care runs the risk of focusing on the treatment of pathology (trauma), rather than fostering the possibility (well-being). What is needed is an approach that allows practitioners to approach trauma with a fresh lens which promotes a holistic view of healing from traumatic experiences and environments. One approach is called healing centered, as opposed to trauma informed. A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action and collective healing. A healing centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively.”

Dr. Ginwright goes on to offer some thoughts on practice and policy: “Shifting from trauma informed care or treatment to healing centered engagement requires youth development stakeholders to expand from a treatment based model which views trauma and harm as an isolated experience, to an engagement model which supports collective well-being. Here are a few notes to consider in building healing centered engagement.
  • Start by building empathy.
Healing centered engagement begins by building empathy with young people who experience trauma... However, building empathy is critical to healing centered engagement. To create this empathy, I encourage adult staff to share their story first, and take an emotional risk by being more vulnerable, honest and open to young people. 

Fostering empathy allows for young people to feel safe sharing their experiences and emotions. The process ultimately restores their sense of well-being because they have the power name and respond to their emotional states.
  • Encourage young people to dream and imagine!
An important ingredient in healing centered engagement is the ability to acknowledge the harm and injury, but not be defined by it. Perhaps one of the greatest tools available to us is the ability to see beyond the condition, event or situation that caused the trauma in the first place.

Research shows that the ability to dream and imagine is an important factor to foster hopefulness, and optimism both of which contributes to overall well-being. Daily survival and ongoing crisis management in young people’s lives make it difficult to see beyond the present. The greatest casualty of trauma is not only depression and emotional scares, but also the loss of the ability to dream and imagine another way of living.

By creating activities and opportunities for young people to play, reimagine, design and envision their lives this process strengthens their future goal orientation. These are practices of possibility that encourage young people to envision what they want to become, and who they want to be.
  • Build critical reflection and take loving action.
Healing and well-being are fundamentally political not clinical. This means that we have to consider the ways in which the policies and practice and political decisions harm young people. Healing in this context also means that young people develop an analysis of these practices and policies that facilitated the trauma in the first place. Without an analysis of these issues, young people often internalize, and blame themselves for lack of confidence. Critical reflection provides a lens by which to filter, examine, and consider analytical and spiritual responses to trauma. 

The other key component, is taking loving action, by collectively responding to political decisions and practices that can exacerbate trauma. By taking action, (e.g. school walkouts, organizing peace march, or promoting access to healthy foods) it builds a sense of power and control over their lives. Research has demonstrated that building this sense of power and control among traumatized groups is perhaps one of the most significant features in restoring holistic well-being.”

Dr. Ginwright has spoken at three of our How Kids Learn conferences. You can view his presentations here: 

HKL 1, part 1

HKL 1, part 2

HKL 6 

Dr. Shawn Ginwright is Associate Professor of Education, and African American Studies at San Francisco State University and the author of Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Activists are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Immigration & Inclusion in Schools

By Sam Piha

California, like many states, is home to a large number of documented and undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients. Thus, the recent changes to our immigration policy has huge implications for our schools - teachers, parents, and youth. 

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) has developed an excellent report on the effects of the immigration policy changes on our public schools. This report entitled California: Immigration & Inclusion in Schools has very little text, only infographics which makes it a powerful communications tool for educators and afterschool providers. Perhaps those in other states can identify similar numbers. 

We highly recommend that you take a look at this brief report (8 pages). In reviewing this report: 

  • What surprised you? 
  • What implications do these facts have on your program design and/or practice? 
  • With whom could you share this with (youth participants, program staff, school staff, parents, or others)? 

**NOTE: All infographics and images are from the California: Immigration & Inclusion in Schools report by CCSESA

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Collateral Damage: New Immigration Policies and Education in California

By Guest Blogger, Michelle O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill
Immigration reform is headline news. The post-election changes in immigration policies and increase in enforcement have resulted in profound fear and anxiety within our immigrant communities. Immigrant students are one of the most vulnerable populations served in public education. Research shows the changes in policies have negatively impacted immigrant students, and the public schools and programs that serve them. New studies reveal a discernible decline in academic performance, school attendance, enrollment in school based programs and children’s health services. 

California is home to the largest undocumented population in the country. Approximately 250,000 undocumented children are enrolled in California schools
and an average of four students per classroom throughout the state have an undocumented parent. “Mixed status” children, children who have legal status but their parents do not, are as susceptible to the ramifications of enforcement as their undocumented peers. Each equally live in fear of being separated from their parents and the possibility of having to leave everything they have known. This issue is of great significance for our state’s educators as they have the overwhelming responsibility of supporting the social-emotional and academic success of each of their students.

Though more undocumented immigrants were deported under the Obama administration than any other presidential administration, the level of anti-immigrant rhetoric and propaganda shared by the Trump administration is unparalleled. Immediately following the last election, hate crimes committed against immigrants increased by over 11% in California. The most violent type of hate crimes in Los Angeles increased by 50%, with over half of those incidents involving bias based on race, ethnicity or national origin. Schools have been a particularly common location for hate crimes. Studies show an increase in racial and religious bullying on campus, even between young children. Children as young as three-years-old are deeply aware of the anti-immigrant sentiment and the possibility of losing a parent. 

The news has recently been inundated by shocking stories of young immigrant children being taken away from their parents upon crossing the southern border. While this new approach to deterring illegal immigration is horrific and inhumane, it only shines a light on the treatment of families who have just arrived into the U.S. Out of the spotlight, immigrant families across the country are being torn apart every day. Immigrants who have lived here for decades, often longer than they have lived anywhere else, and without any kind of criminal record, are experiencing alarming rates of detention and deportation.
The recent termination of several federal programs such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has left hundreds of thousands of upstanding immigrants, many with U.S. citizen children, susceptible to being permanently removed from the country. While the media has focused primarily on illegal immigration reform, there are significant changes also being made to legal immigration policies in an effort to make it more difficult for immigrants to enter or remain in the country legally.

The fear of being separated from loved ones creates significant emotional stress for children and the experience of having a parent deported can result in lifelong trauma. When children do not feel safe, they cannot be ready to learn. Public schools and afterschool programs have already been hard pressed to effectively support the extent of challenging behaviors and social-emotional needs of the students they serve. A recent report by the Children’s Partnership, a California based children’s advocacy organization, found a 50% increase in immigrant children receiving diagnoses for anxiety and depression. Increases in student mental health issues coupled with climbing rates of bias-related bullying and harassment at schools is deeply troubling for educators.

As the presidential administration continues to become more aggressive in its efforts to curb immigration, educators must prepare to support more intensive student needs with less economic resources. Programs assisting low-income students such as Head Start, Free and Reduced Lunch, Medi-Cal and after school services, have experienced a significant decline in enrollment. Immigrant parents are too fearful to complete applications, terrified to share personal information that may identify them, or utilize services that may label them as a “public charge” damaging the possibility of changing their immigration status. Public schools and agencies that depend on the critical funding enrollment in these programs generates have cause for concern. With the steady decline of public school enrollment across the state, many school districts have already found themselves in a financial lurch. If immigration enforcement continues to impact participation in these programs, the financial trajectory public education agencies face in California is dismal. 

[NOTE: Graphic images above come from California: Immigration & Inclusion in Schools by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association] 

Michelle O'Neill works for the Los Angeles County Office of Education under the Student Support Services Division.  Her career has been dedicated to serving under-resourced students in public schools. Michelle has served as a school counselor, as well as a school and district administrator. She has coordinated district wide programs that address attendance improvement, drop-out prevention, early intervention services, mental and behavioral health and alternative education. She currently serves as the County Office of Education’s Immigration Coordinator.