California Educator

December 2013

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Learning Best Practice "EARLY" INTERVENTION A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOCIAL WORKER BY SHERRY POSNICK-GOODWIN "It's Early. What's going on?" As the school bell rings to start a new day, Bridget Early gets a call on her walkie-talkie, the first of many. It's often the way her day begins. T H E E V E R E T T M I D D L E S C H O O L social worker's role is helping to "defuse" tension throughout the campus — and support students living in poverty and challenging circumstances. She helps teachers focus on academics by running interference when a crisis occurs. There's no such thing as a typical day, but typical events include mediation, mentoring, meeting with parents, suicide assessment, contacting Children's Protective Services, educating students about bullying and homophobia, and facilitating "community circles" for better communication. She supports teachers exhausted from working with a challenging population of children, many of whom are new to the country. 42 Educator 12 Dec 2013 v2.0 int.indd 42 Many of the school's new arrivals are rejoining a parent who came here years ago to make a better life, and reunification in a foreign country can be traumatic, she notes. "My job is helping kids who are not having their basic needs met," says Early, United Educators of San Francisco. "They are expected to sit in class and focus on school work and testing, when maybe the night before there was crazy domestic violence and shootings outside their window. Maybe they're with a parent who is a stranger. It's hard for them to come here and set all that aside." Every school in San Francisco has at least one part-time social worker, and Early is one of two at her school. Statewide, 430 school-based professionals carry the title of school social worker (SSW) for the 5 million plus students ages 5-17. The California Association of School Social Workers recommended ratio of students to school social workers is 250 to 1. She appreciates that her district values what she does. "I love my job and would never trade it for anything," says Early, who sprints down the hallway to avoid being late. DE C E M B E R 2013 | JANUARY 2014 12/14/13 3:33 PM

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