Friday, February 12, 2016

Roosevelt K-2 Primary School social worker Luke Penner sits with a couple of students (photo provided).
Celebrate National School Social Workers Week

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on March 6, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.

ELKHART — Elkhart Community Schools strives to do the best possible job educating all of its students and seeks to inspire excellence in each of them. This requires a team approach with administrators, teachers, and support staff all working together. Since 1988, Elkhart has provided professionally trained school social workers as part of this team in all of our schools.

Regardless of their abilities, students may experience a number of problems that can potentially hinder school success. The school social worker is in a unique position to be a non-threatening, kind, and compassionate individual who does not serve as an authority figure. These qualities facilitate the development of trust, rapport, and honest communication essential to helping students overcome the issues that may be negatively affecting them.

As advocates and liaisons for students, social workers provide numerous and varied services. Among these are: assisting children who are having difficulty utilizing the resources of the school, helping to create a school climate that encourages all children to participate effectively in the educational process, supporting efforts to facilitate change that leads to student success, connecting students and families with community resources, attempting to strengthen families in order that their children may better benefit from the education provided them and working flexibly with building administrators and staff to meet the needs and mission of the building. Additional services may also involve mediating student conflicts, helping students cope (in healthy ways) with the many stresses and changes they experience and providing individual counseling to help students with issues such as grief, self-esteem, attendance, and self-defeating beliefs and behaviors that get in the way of school performance and success.

In elementary schools, school social workers wear many hats and engage in a diverse range of activities appropriate to the student’s age and the needs of the school. These may involve working with students individually, as well as working with entire classes. Social workers play an instrumental role in helping children who are going through grief associated with the loss of someone they love or when there is divorce or separation of their parents. Social workers also engage in helping to address bullying behavior when it occurs. They frequently are involved in monitoring student attendance and addressing underlying difficulties when attendance is a problem. They help find assistance when parents/guardians are having difficulty adequately feeding, clothing, and sheltering students.

Middle school and high school students experience many challenges associated with adolescence on their journey toward adulthood. As they seek greater independence, teenagers frequently deal with issues of self-esteem and self-image. They face the problems associated with change in friendships or conflict with others. They experience anguish when there is a break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. They often have difficulty coping with increasing stress and fears about their future. School social workers help students address these challenges and they assist students figure out how to balance their desire for independence with their need for continued guidance from parents and other adults.

Whether in elementary or secondary buildings, school social workers help students believe in themselves and their abilities. They help young people realize their full potential. School social workers are honored to help students succeed in school and to prepare them for their future life success.