National School Social Worker week is celebrated from March 7 - March 13, 2021 to focus public attention on the unique contributions of school social workers. In SFUSD, school social workers are essential. School social workers are trained mental health professionals who focus on coordinating the efforts of schools, families, and communities toward helping students improve their academic achievement and social, emotional, and behavioral competence by using the unique perspective of viewing the person in his or her environment. School social workers seek to ensure equitable education opportunities; ensure that students are mentally, physically, and emotionally present in the classroom; and promote respect and dignity for all students.
Creating welcome school environmentsSchool social workers are meaningful contributors to establishing and communicating a welcoming school environment. School social workers promote family partnership, respect and uplift culture, listen with their ears and their heart, and foster safe and supportive school environments. During distance learning, school social workers have created meaningful virtual spaces for student healing and connection. For instance, Heather Golden at Jefferson Elementary School posts a weekly wellness video message for students and families.
Social worker Heather Golden's weekly message to Jefferson Elementary students and families
Fostering hope and resilienceSchool social workers often give hope to individuals who are feeling overwhelmed and build and nurture student and family resilience and protective factors. They recognize strengths in the child or family, offer support, help them visualize a way out or around a challenge, and come alongside them to help them see a brighter tomorrow.
At James Denman Middle School, the social worker Geraldine Punzalan co-advises a Filipino student group with 10 students. The students decided they wanted to use the group time as a Cooking class, so they partnered with the Beacon program and JCYC and had the food ingredients delivered to students before the meeting and then they cook together on Zoom, making delicious meals for their families.
Identifying and linking to resources and supportsSchool social workers realize that life is full of challenges, difficulties, and barriers to success. Children and families can be faced with a variety of barriers like poverty, homelessness, mental health challenges, lack of access to needed resources, bullying, academic challenges, inequities, and injustices. School social workers will use their knowledge and skills to support students and families, leverage resources, and help identify solutions or coping skills needed to navigate rough waters. Since the start of the pandemic last year, school social workers in SFUSD have provided support to thousands of students and families based on needs identified during quarterly Family Wellness Checks including access to basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, technology). The social worker at Civic Center Secondary School, Kniesha Primes, delivered homework and enrollment packets and food to students’ homes and will deliver hygiene packets in the coming weeks.
Here are a few ways to celebrate your school social worker
- Send them a personal thank you note. Consider mentioning specific examples of why you appreciate them.
- Promote thank you/appreciation notes to your School Social Worker from members of your school community.
- Encourage cards/drawings or virtual messages from students (individually or as a classroom group); “This year you taught me …”, “I appreciate my School Social Worker for …”