As schools are increasingly held accountable for students’ academic achievements through vigorous standardize testing, organizations such as Ashoka Innovators for the Public help ensure educators also devote attention and energy to the social-emotional development of their students. San Miguel Elementary school became one of the newest members of the Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network this July, one of only 60 such schools across the nation, one of nine in California.
Ashoka Changemaker Schools emphasize empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills in their students so that all their students will grow up to be changemakers and make a positive impact on the world. Changermaker schools are recognized for their successful efforts in cultivating these skills in their students. They enjoy opportunities to network and learn best practices from each other and serve as models in their communities.
Once a school is nominated to be considered an Ashoka Changemaker school, the process by which a school qualifies to join the network involves multiple interviews, school visits by Ashoka fellows (individuals around the world who go through a similarly vigorous process to be chosen as an Ashoka fellow) and staff over a few months. San Miguel has been focusing on the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools and has put an emphasis on social-emotional learning in recent years. The administration at San Miguel demonstrates an understanding that teachers need to be supported in order for them to better nurture their students. The school has a partnership with Acknowledge Alliance which provides Licensed Marriage Family Therapists to help cultivate empathy skills and support social emotional needs of their teachers, while Playworks program stresses development of empathy skills in students. LMFTs from Acknowledge Alliance also work with San Miguel’s upper grade students on developing social-emotional intelligence. At San Miguel, these social-emotional skills are recognized as essential to academic success in students and will prepare them for their future.
Christina Ballantyne, Principal at San Miguel, sums it up well, “We are currently the highest need school in the district and we are continually working to close the opportunity gap. We want our kids to learn academic standards, and that requires the innovative social emotional support we’re providing. We are working to implement social-emotional learning and lessons in the classroom to support our students. Beyond that we want to equip our kids with the skills to be change agents for their communities and for the broader community.”
For more information on:
- Ashoka Innovators for the Public, please go to https://www.ashoka.org
- Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network, http://startempathy.org/about/changemaker-schools
- Acknowledge Alliance, http://www.acknowledgealliance.org
Contributor: Nina Wong-Dobkin