Community Schools: Blending Education and Social Programs

As you may know, I have been writing and advocating that schools need to be more sensitized and oriented toward the neuroscientific research that helps students learn more effectively through brain-based practices and interventions.  These interventions can help students of all ages regulate and be more able to maintain focus and expand their capability for learning and growth.

How to intentionally shape a school and learning environment

Student with teacher/counselor
Integrating education with the whole person leads to success for the student, family and community

This simply means if schools want to be more in tune with the needs of their students, they will intentionally prioritize how they shape their environment.

It is unfortunate that schools are working with such deficits due to increased numbers of students in classrooms, serious financial struggles and staffing cuts—staff who can be essential to the safety and well-being of a school environment.  In a day where we need more help for our teachers and administrators, there are far less resources than in previous years.

Change is afoot in education.

It is easy to have a negative perspective on our schools, but as a bit of a rebuttal, I want to say there is a burgeoning movement in the field of education.

I have had the privilege of working with several different schools whose staff were inspiring.  In an urban setting filled with violence, drugs, trauma and so much more, these individuals affirmed their goals:

  1. be a school with high educational standards
  2. be a community voice, and
  3. be a support system for parents, students and others within their own neighborhood.

With complex challenges in such difficult communities, it would be easy to narrow the focus and stay away from the extreme social issues. Yet, these teachers insist they needed to be more involved so their students could succeed. They are right!

Fortunately, we are finding more and more schools looking for new ways to help their students succeed. 

Staff at these schools are seeing their students as whole beings, integrated into family and community.

This coming paradigm shift will be significant for many schools as there are all kinds of issues with each student. Moreover, each student needs someone to care about his/her needs, families, opportunities and growth.  If we can own the vision, I think a huge difference will occur in reducing school drop-out rate, teen drug use, incidences of bullying, violence and other challenges that so negatively impact a school and community.

It is inevitable if schools are going to educate students, then they will have to shift focus to helping students with the issues they face in life. This requires not only helping them regulate their brains, but also modeling  how to relate to teachers and staff in positive ways that build trust and affirmations.

Yes, schools are about education but education is about life.

The blending of education and relational integrity in and out of the classroom could make a huge difference in how students perceive their school, their teachers and themselves.

I am privileged to help several schools begin their journey of holistic care and support for their students. We need to embrace both the person and the educational process. I truly believe this flourishing approach will be a catalyst to help schools and school districts make changes in their systems. It will change the landscape of education for all our good.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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