Making sure students start their day with a welcoming smile and positive words is what students can count on each day from Social Worker Belinda Comeaux. “Each morning I stand at the gate and greet students as they enter the school campus. I know that words matter and that something as simple as ‘Good Morning or Have a Great Day with their name can make all the difference in a child feeling welcome, safe, and comfortable when they come to school.” Comeaux is one of 13 social workers working throughout the Natomas Unified School District to help build our Culture of Resilience.
“Building Our Culture of Resilience is utilizing the current systems of student support that we have in place to create safe and respectful environments that enable students to build caring relationships with adults and peers, self-regulate their emotions and behaviors, adapt to adversity, and succeed academically,” explains Carol Swanson, Associate Superintendent of Student Support Services. It’s exactly what Comeaux does every morning when she takes time to acknowledge students’ presence, talks and sits down with them during breakfast, and builds trusting relationships with them so that they feel comfortable about addressing what’s bothering them that may impact their learning. “Kids just want to come inside my room. They are hearing about the great time their peers are having, and they want to be a part of that.”
Prior to the pandemic, district staff noticed a steady increase in the social emotional support needs of students. Not surprisingly, that need has exacerbated during the pandemic. “Students have gone through some really tough challenges, and it’s been traumatizing. We knew that in order to better serve them, it was imperative to have experienced social workers as part of our team, so last spring, we received approval from our Board of Trustees to include the hiring of social workers in our 18-month Recovery Plan,” Swanson shares.
To prepare for student’s full return to school after participating in distance learning for over a year, social workers and psychologists participated in a 12-hour training on Trauma-Informed Practices. After they were trained, they administered a 6-hour version to teachers, principals, other administrators, and other support staff throughout the district. In order to Build Our Culture of Resilience, all staff should be trained so that it’s integrated throughout the entire school community. “While this training is specifically focused on Trauma-Informed Practices, it’s one of several systems that we already have in place to support students such as PBIS, Restorative Practices, and Responsive Classrooms. It builds upon our current support systems,” says Swanson.
With just under three months into the school year, we’re already seeing examples of how the integration of these strategies are helping some students to build resilience. Sybrena Brown, another NUSD Social Worker shares a recent experience. “I had one student that was really having a tough time, and it was impacting her behavior in class. Rather than focusing on how she reacted, I spent time on what was causing it. I was able to get to the source of the issue rather than the outcome of the behavior. Through that caring relationship building, she’s able to be more focused, comfortable, and connected while at school. She’ll even request to speak with me which encourages me that I am making a difference in students’ lives.” And that’s exactly what Building Our Culture of Resilience looks like. It’s supporting and providing students with the tools to develop coping skills and positive strategies to move forward in a positive manner.
Throughout this year, we’ll continue to update our community on our progress on Building Our Culture of Resilience. We’ll share stories and recognize caring adults within our community that demonstrate resilience, positive relationships, and empathy with our students. We hope you take time to read them and celebrate with us.
To learn more about NUSD’s focus on Building Our Culture of Resilience, visit our website at www.natomasunified.org/culture-of-resilience where we have dedicated an entire section with information and resources.