California Educator

JUNE 2010

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Bolstering resiliency skills Davidson Middle School in San Rafael has launched a pilot program to bolster students’ innate resiliency skills. Davidson staff mem- bers are working with a local nonprofit, Cor- Stone, meeting weekly for 28 weeks in groups of 10 with trained facilitators who are either therapists or therapist interns. So far, the pro- gram has paid off in dividends, says Steve Leventhal, CorStone director. Suspensions have been reduced by half, and a formal eval- uation by University of San Francisco shows increased levels of student optimism and de- creased pessimism. Students are asked to consider their strengths, and to build on those strengths by improving their social and emotional skill sets. They learn healthy ways of dealing with their emotions and how to work out conflicts with- out involving teachers, adminis- trators or counselors. “These days you can definitely changes in a w orld that is continuously changing. In the classroom, standards are getting tougher, and students need to know curriculum earlier. In the news they see vio- lence, people doing drugs and people com- mitting crimes. A lot of them have parents who are always working, so there’s not that time at home for them to learn these skills and values. So it’s up to schools to give kids the necessary coping skills.” “We are teaching them life skills and ways of resolving conflict that are self-empower- ing, peaceful and accountable,” says Leven- thal. “They are settling things in a way that is respectful of others, as opposed to a punitive and isola- tion model.” Safe haven for students At the School of the Arts in Joanne Cohen see a need for it with behavior such as cutting,” says Alison Ja- cobs, a counselor and San Rafael Teachers Association member, referring to students who mutilate themselves. “We have students who are saying, ‘Help, I need coping skills, I don’t know how to do this.’” Jacobs finds it ironic that schools are put- ting more pressure on students, but decreas- ing services for counseling and mental health. “Kids are going through so many W United Educators of San Francisco San Francisco, the Wellness Center offers a safe haven for students to chill and discuss problems such as stress, vio- lence and abuse, depression and suicide, sexual orientation, chronic illness, eating disor- ders, family issues, peer relationships and risky behaviors. Teens today are under enormous pres- sure, comments Joanne Cohen, Wellness Center coordinator. “They start testing here in second grade. To get into our school, they have to audition, like in the movie Fame. For kids who are motivated, even a 4.0 GPA is When it comes to understanding why some people are resilient and others aren’t, there are no easy answers. According to Psychology Today, everyone has the potential to be resilient, and resiliency can emerge in both childhood and adulthood. A 1998 study found there are some common characteristics of resilient people: They keep in mind that bad times are temporary; they believe in themselves; they accept help from others and seek help from family members, teachers, mentors and friends; they set goals for the future; they believe their struggles have made them stronger. While some individuals seem to have resiliency and others haven’t yet tapped theirs, there is definitely much more stress in the lives of young people today than in years past and more challenges for them to face with resiliency. ABOVE: Tenth-grader Cassie Grilley at the San Francisco School of the Arts. not enough. To get into a UC, they need AP and honors classes.” Their problems are exacerbated by tech- nology, with some students cyberbullying and spreading gossip via texting and Face- book, says Cohen, an education support professional and member of United Educa- tors of San Francisco. “I try to foster awareness that they may be using negative coping skills when it comes to Continued on page 38 > The poorest children are bearing the brunt of the recession’s impact, according to UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access, and California topped the list in foreclosures and unemployment. > California’s homeless student population from preschool to 12th grade grew from 178,000 in 2006-07 to 288,000 in 2008-09, an increase of more than 25 percent annually, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. > A survey of 6,008 South Los Angeles high school students in 2008, conducted by South Central Youth Empowered Through Action with technical help from Loyola Marymount University, showed a high percentage of students exhibiting symptoms of clinical depression. > A new UC Berkeley study shows that poverty affects children’s brains, impairing language development and “executive function” or the ability to play, remember details and pay attention in school. JUNE 2010 | 11

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