California Educator

December/January 2021

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 38 of 67

"e COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many of the preexisting inequities present for students and families profoundly impacted by poverty and inequality in Cali- fornia," the "State of Crisis" report states. e report authors (Bishop, Lorena Camargo Gonzalez and Edwin Rivera) make a series of policy recommenda- tions for all levels of government, from federal to school districts, noting that coordination is necessary because no one government agency has the resources or reach to be effective working in isolation. At the local level, the report recommends: • Ensuring that school district resources for students experiencing homelessness are aligned with Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals and taking into account the likely amount of need. • En c o ura g in g th e d e v elopm ent of di stri c tw i d e strategies for identifying and serving students expe- riencing homelessness so that responsibility does not fall solely upon the district's homeless liaison. • Adopting a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework to organize schools around the needs of students experiencing homelessness; and reducing suspensions that disproportionately impact students with housing insecurity and students of color, and embracing alternative strategies to punitive disci- pline approaches. "An aggressive response … should include policy actions at the local, state and federal level to address the student homelessness crisis," the report states. "Key decision-makers from the public and private sector, including students, educators and lawmakers, must work together to make the best use of limited resources in the face of a growing challenge." H I G H S C H O O L E N G L I S H teacher Jennifer Ortiz and resource specialist Jessica MacCaskey, who co-teach at Ana- heim High School, deal with students experiencing chronic trauma on a daily basis. The pair spoke at the "State of Crisis" press conference about changing their approaches and strate- gies to connect with students. Below, their edited comments. Jessica MacCaskey F O R T H E S E S T U D E N T S , Anaheim High is the one constant in their lives. We wanted to create a safe and caring environment where they feel comfortable self-reporting trauma and adver- sities. So, we created a classroom culture that flourished with inclusiveness, acceptance, vulnerability and a lot of laughter. We held dance party Fridays and pulled a gigantic speaker into the hallway every passing period, encouraging students to recognize the ability music, dance and laughter have to decrease anxiety. We read stories and novels about characters who faced and overcame adversity and arti- cles about effective coping strategies. And we invited fellow Anaheim teachers and administrators to come share their own childhood expe- riences with homelessness, poverty and generational trauma. We, along with our students, were moved to tears by their willingness to share their stories. Afterwards, our students opened up to us even more, having felt the overwhelming support of their peers and teachers. Our student who wrote about how severely homelessness was impacting his ability to learn wrote a moving thank-you letter. He started putting more effort in his classes and advocating for the help he needed. [Focusing] on his social-emotional needs resulted in a marked improvement in his grades. This experience has forever changed our teaching practices, and we have come to realize that putting time and energy into addressing the traumas that have held our students back cre- ates a classroom culture that allows our students to focus on their learning and reach their utmost potential. MacCaskey and Ortiz hold "Dance Party Fridays" in the school hallway. "Putting time and energy into addressing traumas that have held students back creates a classroom culture that allows students to focus on learning and reach their utmost potential." 37 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 / J A N U A R Y 2 0 21

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - December/January 2021