21 Sep Back to School Time at Access Institute: Beyond the Three R’s
“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion, but by play.” – Plato
We send children to school to prepare them for life. With so much to learn in our high-speed society, we often feel that there isn’t any time to waste. In the resulting hyper-focus on grades, test scores and other markers of achievement we often lose sight of the complex needs of the whole child.
Increasingly, schools in the Bay Area have recognized the importance of helping students grow by engaging their curiosity, building their self-esteem and helping them feel safe. By giving attention to children’s emotional lives, schools can address not only what but also how children learn. With so many different kinds of children, and so many different kinds of learning, the schools can’t do this alone.
Access Institute has partnerships with Glen Park, Grattan, and Hillcrest Elementary Schools where we provide each of these schools with on-site therapists to support their students’ emotional, psychological and social development. We have chosen to work at elementary schools because young children need solid foundations to learn their formative lessons and develop the core capacities that will guide them in school and the rest of their lives. We provide these services at no cost to the schools or families because, often, those who need us the most have fewest resources.
“Without Access Institute therapists at this school, we can’t do our jobs. Some of these kids have experienced so much trauma and have so much on their plate, they literally can’t learn.” – Jean Robertson, Principal, Grattan Elementary School
Although there are a multitude of paths that development can take, there are also many potential roadblocks. When child development gets off track, it usually results in negative emotional expressions and/or difficult behaviors that impact the classroom and entire school. These expressions, in turn, often get a negative response from other children and adults and this response can make the original problem worse. As Principal Robertson knows, children who have experienced trauma often find themselves in this negative feedback loop. Our therapists help teachers, parents and children identify the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that contribute to the negative cycle and then work together to find pathways for getting them out of it. Because our therapists are on site at the school, they can facilitate a healing process that begins with the individuals but helps the entire school become a safe and healthy place.
Thanks to the support of our community, we’re able to bring high-quality services to the school community. We love our work in the schools. Being a real part of the school fabric and helping create positive change in these children’s lives is a great privilege.
We are ready to do more. By conducting a needs assessment within the San Francisco Unified School District and actively seeking financial support we are poised to expand the program to more schools where our impact could be felt on an even greater scale.