Transcript: California Center for School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive School Climates in 2023-24
Welcome. We will be starting shortly with our webinar on the California Center for School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive and Inclusive School Climates. Now I’m going to pass it to Hilva Chan from the California Department of Education to get us started.
Thank you, Rebeca. So good morning. Welcome everyone to the California Center for School Climate’s session on Building Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive School Climates in ’23-24. My name is Hilva Chan and I’m an Education Programs Consultant with the CDE. In the past couple of years, I have had the honor of working with these excellent people from WestEd in supporting the CCSC work. In the next slide you show that in this session you’ll hear from us an overview of the CCSC work; you’ll hear from a principal regarding how she collaborates with education partners to support good climate work; and, you’ll hear about all the excellent opportunities available from the CCSC this school year. So with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Tom Herman with the CDE to offer a warm welcome. Tom?
Thank you, Hilva, for that. I do want to welcome all of you today. I’m so excited that you’re available and have this opportunity with the California Center for School Climate and to look at building safe and supportive and inclusive school climates. We know more than ever today that kids and students have such urgent needs with regard to their social emotional wellbeing, their mental health, and their ability to feel warm and accepted in the learning environments that they find themselves in. And so I am just so passionate about school climate as sort of a frame or a lens through which we look at the wellbeing of all students, and it begins with the school climate. So I’ll close with that and just say, I’m so pleased that you’re all here to hear from experts in the field and what local schools are doing to support students. Thank you. And back to Hilva.
Thank you, Tom. So this slide shows the different domains of school climate. We know that school climate is a very complex concept, so it really depends on who you speak with, it may mean different things. So this slide shows that we have three main domains of school climate, which is safety and wellness, belonging and connections, and then environment, and all the different subdomains within the three domains. You can actually see how this actually guides the work of CCSC in providing different support to different schools and districts in the various domains and subdomains. The next slide shows our three presenters of today. We have Rebeca Cerna, Director of the CCSC, who’s also the Area Director at WestEd. Jenny Betz, our beloved TA provider with the CCSC, also the Senior Program Associate with WestEd. And also with us today we have Kristin Sobilo, Principal of Alice Birney Elementary in Eureka City Schools. With that, Rebeca Cerna.
Thank you, Hilva. I’m going to kick us off by starting with an overview of the California Center for School Climate, or we also refer to it as CCSC. We have four goals that we focus on through our work. First, to provide relevant and responsive coaching supports. Second, to support districts and schools with best practices for collecting or using or measuring areas of school climate. To serve as a connector across the state and to disseminate best practices. And to support you in your partnerships. We partner with schools and districts in our work through CCSC, and we also work with districts and schools to support you and to strengthen the relationships that they have on the ground with all members of their school community. As we share today the free supports that we have through CCSC, we’ll be sharing examples of partnerships throughout the webinar today.
So first I just want to share here, this is a visual of all of our core CCSC team members. They have expertise in many areas of school climate, ranging from mental health, from data use practices, resilience, youth development, restorative practices. And with them they bring both professional and lived experiences that really help us to support the field. Some have served as former educators, social workers, administrators at schools, and have worked at school district and state levels. Our team is also supported by educators in the field who serve as advisors and reviewers for our materials.
We also are supported by a youth advisory team and by young adult advisors. SoOur partnership with young people includes members of our youth advisory team that you can see on this slide, and they are current or recent high school graduates. They represent various areas of the state and bring perspectives to help us bring perspectives from urban, suburban, and rural communities among other lived experiences that they have. And so we’re happy to work with them. We’ve partnered with the young people in developing content and resources to support the field, such as co-authoring a toolkit on relationships or working with them on audiocast, and they’ve created videos. We have integrated their perspectives into our work. And here’s a quote from one of our former youth advisory team members, Julian Berkowitz-Sklar, who recently graduated, and how he framed school climate as a safe and supportive environment consists of welcoming, acceptance, awareness and celebration of many different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds. It’s important for us to really take into account, to really think of, their perspective as we’re supporting schools and districts.
So now we’re going to transition for the webinar to learn from a principal in Eureka City Schools. Kristin Sobilo, principal at Alice Birney Elementary, is here and we’re delighted to have her join us in this space so that she can share about her experience and what they’ve done in terms of collaboration with their educational partners at her site. So, Kristin?
Thank you, Rebeca. So first and foremost, I am Principal of Alice Birney, my name is Kristin Sobilo. I want to start off actually with gratitude. I want to thank everyone for being here today. I think Tom alluded to that idea that maintaining and creating a school climate that is positive and inviting and celebratory of all of our learning community is one of the most crucial parts of any LEA. But I do believe it is hard work and it is messy work and you get traction and then you’re unsure of that traction. And so I think that I would just want us all to sit in that moment to realize that the work that we do, we are not alone. And I want to give gratitude to that because we are all in this place together. And I think that’s ultimately the point of today’s showcase, is for you to see what WestEd offers us as LEAs and local districts. And so I just want to start with that gratefulness of the fact that we do not do this hard work alone.
And so ultimately where I am in Alice Birney is we’re in Eureka. We’re one of four of the elementary schools in Eureka City Schools and we are a school of about 400. Ultimately, you may not realize the diversity we have up here in Eureka, so I’m really excited to just showcase that. We have nine languages in our kindergarten class right now, and we are multilingual ourselves as staff members, and we believe strongly in that diversity for our entire learning community. So I’m excited to be here with you today.
Looking at. . . the next slide is a quote. [“When you walk in in your why, the what has more impact because you walk in your purpose.” – Doug Fisher] So we are working right now with Visible Learning, and Doug Fisher just came to our district and launched our kickoff for our year this year. And this quote really stood out to me. Myself and Rhonda, who is the director of our community schools grant, we went to the national conference last year on community schools and we really spoke about the fact that community schools need to be integrated into our program, that is not a program itself, but it is a school improvement. And so when, I believe, we walk in our why, that what has a greater impact. And so I wanted to start here because this essentially is the outcome that I felt as an LEA in working with WestEd. Our learning community became grounded in our why and this year we are feeling an impact that is greater because we’re walking in that purpose. So, I look forward to sharing our journey now that we had with WestEd.
So as I stated, we’re behind the Redwood Curtain, and the reason I say that also is that we have to look for those resources. We have to look up, we have to be aware of the different types of people, communities, providers that are there for us to use to fulfill the goals that we have, to fulfill our why. So again, we are one of three elementary schools though within that Eureka City that received the community school implementation grant. And so again, that’s an integrated part of our program.
So as I came to that as the LEA, as the leader, the director of the community school grant, I began to speak about the four pillars. One of those four pillars is shared leadership and we felt very strong about extended learning opportunities for our students, integrated supports, and also parent and student engagement. But when we came to that fourth pillar with shared leadership, there’s a lot you look at as an LEA. There are times that you can share leadership and there are times that you can’t. So, as I came to that area, I was excited to see that WestEd offered the family forum, and I believe that that family forum was our vehicle to having and launching true shared leadership here at Alice Birney with our learning community.
So what did that look like? So that looked like. . . ultimately, we reached out to WestEd and they collaborated with me, as the site administrator, and we worked on what was the why, what is the purpose of having this family forum? And that essentially was rooted in the idea that I wanted to hear the voices of our diverse community. We wanted to hear the needs that families were having, especially post-pandemic. Where are we at? What are you seeing right now as a community member in this learning world that we have? And so, by meeting with Jenny and Kenwyn, who were our consultants through WestEd, I was able to become very targeted about the purpose by which I was bringing parents in, bringing those stakeholders in.
So it launched with nine families. And I even said to Kenwyn and Jenny, “Nine? I have 400 students at my school.” But ultimately what Kenwyn and Jenny were saying was that this was going to be a deep dialogue. And so I went with the process and they were absolutely right. So, we had nine diverse families. I had personal conversations with each family. We brought families that had special education needs, multilingual needs, socio-emotional needs, a variety of socioeconomics in our families. And so we brought in a diverse group of people that could be heard.
We also approached it from a circle format, and I would just like to share that element. We didn’t do it as a panel. We had everyone sitting in a circle and it was actually given to us by one of our community liaisons with the community school grant. And the idea was that we would be removing the power differential that can occur. And it was a tremendous decision that we made. We had an incredible discussion with each other.
Dinner was also provided, and we had a local restaurant do that. So again, showing our investment in community. And then we broke up into small groups. After we were a circle and we discussed overall feelings about the school, then we broke up into work groups and those small groups began to really get into some deep discussion as to what is needed by parents right now, what are they seeing that need be? And that’s when we created action items. We essentially were able to create action items in all four of the pillars. We can go to that next slide.
And so this year we’ve actually already launched all four of these things. And so again, I do believe that being able to talk with two experts in looking at school climate, I was able, as the leader, to be really clear on what actions were realistic, logical to put in place. And so, what you see before you are the four pillars. So integrated supports or services, shared leadership, family engagement, student engagement, and extended learning opportunities for students. So, this is what came out of the discussion. Parents wanted to see continued self-regulation skills being talked about in the classrooms. We want to see social workers leading small groups around skills that we’re seeing students lag. Ultimately, we want earned and scheduled breaks in order to alleviate that stress that may occur for the variety of students that we serve. And then in shared leadership, ultimately we wanted to get started right away.
One thing that came out is families said, “We want to talk right away with our teachers.” So we are on our fourth day of empathy interviews right now. And so we’ve brought all our families ahead of time, we have 20-minute conversations with them about who they are, what are their needs, how will we best serve you. And so we’ve started those and they’ve been absolutely successful. We have begun our parent newsletters. Parents wanted physical copies of things and not just an all call, so we’ve begun that. We’ve also, parents were saying, we want parents to talk with parents about parenting, and that came out quite a bit.
So we’re launching a parent cafe this year. We’re using Changing Tides, which is an outside provider for socioemotional needs, and they’re going to come in every month and meet with parents during the school day. So right after they drop off their student, they can come and talk with other parents about being a parent. And specifically we’re going to look at the protective factors that play for a parent on what those protective factors are in creating a strong, and as Tom said, the wellbeing of our children. And then that moves into family engagement. They wanted to do some Saturdays, so we have a plan already that we’re going to work in our garden in October, juicing apples, doing a potluck, things like that where we’re bringing in the whole neighborhood into our school.
And then the last was extended learning opportunities. Parents are really speaking about that it is difficult. We have 100% of our families are socioeconomically challenged, and so they really verbalize this idea of going to classes and taking my children to sports is a very difficult thing for me to do. So we are launching a six to eight week series in our afterschool program around — we have one of our local tribes, Yurok — we’re bringing in a Yurok martial artist, we’re bringing in someone to teach soccer, we’re going to use wrestling, we have a violinist coming in, keyboarding. So really looking at how we can enrich our students as parents have asked.
So ultimately through that work with WestEd, by being grounded in our why, by understanding what the what could be, we were able to launch. . . that we’re lighting it up this year with our family forum. So, that I can say is the total outcome of the work that we’ve done with WestEd. I’d like to end now just with the quote, which is, I feel that when an LEA is clear with how families are a part of that shared leadership, that’s a foundational part of maintaining and creating a positive school climate. And that was an incredible resource that I and our school community was able to receive through WestEd. And so I’m here just to showcase that to you, show us that we are not alone in this work and that through that dialogue with professionals, we can go deeper and quite frankly launch it the very next year. So we did our family forum on May 17th, and then we were able to be pretty clear on the directions we wanted to take at the opening of the year. So thank you.
I think I hand it over to you now, Jenny, don’t I?
You sure do. My goodness. Hello and good morning, everyone. And thank you Kristin. Kristin, as much as you are giving us some love, I mean, you have just really made such an impact on all of us too, just being able to know the really great work that’s happening in Eureka, and we’ll talk about that a little more like little later.
But good morning, everyone. I am Jenny Betz and I’m the lucky one today who gets to tell you about some of the great tools and resources that we have coming out of the California Center for School Climate or CCSC. All the things that we highlight today can be found through that Linktree that Lan has been pasting in the chat. Go to the next slide.
The first thing we want to share, if you have not already, you should definitely check out the CCSC audio gallery. It’s full of great stories of real-world schools and districts doing exemplary work on a host of school climate topics. This is a list of some of the recent additions to the audio gallery. Two of them in particular, it’s towards the middle there, are actually from our and with our youth advisory team members. And then there are two really, really great insightful ones: one from Hayward Unified and one from San Diego Unified. And of course, at the top there we have Improving Student Wellness With A Multi-Tiered System of Support with the Santa Clara County Office of Education. So, if we go to the next slide, that’s exactly what we’re going to highlight here with just a short clip. So in just a moment, we’re going to play it. It’s just a couple minutes long. If you want to follow along with the captions, please turn them on now using the show captions button in your Zoom toolbar. So let’s take a listen.
Audio Clip – Sarah Nava:
The Santa Clara team is deeply committed to honoring student experiences and needs in the staffing structure and programming of the wellness centers. Amanda and Dr. Powell shared more about how students co-create the wellness center vision.
Audio Clip – Amanda Dickey:
I want to point out that Dr. Dewan did some things differently when she started implementing in wellness centers. She led with the students, from what I’ve heard. That is not necessarily often the case. Adult administrators, teachers, they think they know what students want and they start thinking about what it should look like, and who should work there. We led with our students, we led with our student advisory group and they told us what they wanted so they were clear about wanting some non-traditional therapies and services, things that would make the wellness center feel like a refuge and a place that kids wanted to be, versus a place that you went when you had mental health issues or you were in trouble.
Doesn’t feel clinical, it doesn’t feel like a place that you go because you’re struggling, necessarily. It feels like a welcome opening, calming space for students. I do think that that is relatively unique about our county, that we really let the students lead. I do think that that is part of the reason why we’ve had such a high engagement level.
Audio Clip – Dr. Chaun Powell:
We have students on our advisory group as young as 12 in middle school all the way through, actually college. We have a couple of students that are transitioning out of high school into college on this advisory group. We have a countywide advisory, but we also have school site-based advisory groups at our schools that do have wellness centers that are impacting, and advocating, and designing the day-to-day operations with their local context. Because our county is so big and diverse that each school site is different. The needs of each school site is different.
Okay, thank you. So that really is just a little smidgen of that story, and we really do encourage you. . . they’re all so good. They’re about 20 minutes long and each one comes with the — I’m blanking on the words, but that’s okay — but comes with a brief that explains more about the school and has some discussion questions and then some interesting things as well, so tools that you can use. They’re really great, I’d check it out. And by the way, the narrator that you hear in the very beginning of that clip was our young adult school climate advisor for CCSC, Sarah Nava. So that’s been exciting to have her as part of those as well.
In addition to the audio gallery, we have a number of resources on the website that are things that you can download and utilize in that way. In particular, these are some of our newest things. So there is a checklist that just came out that is very specific to classrooms and it’s about designing a safe and supportive physical environment. And it’s a checklist of different things to consider in your classroom and how the physical environment impacts the wellbeing, let alone the learning of the students in your class. So that’s a great and easy-to-use tool. We also have an amazing tool that’s come out, that is sort of the other end from direct classroom tool, is our Participatory Systems Change for Equity, the guide, which is in partnership with the national Center to Improve Social Emotional Learning and School Safety and CCSC, and it’s really great. It’s actually quite amazing the way that it looks through really having participatory systems change. How do we really do change in the way that is impactful, includes the people who are part of the community and is sustainable?
Then we have, as you can see, this one, Calming Spaces in Schools and Classrooms. That has been a sort of a bestseller, even though they’re free, and a lot of folks using those. Especially in these couple years after the pandemic, and there’s a lot of stress going on for students and staff, and these are some tips of what you can do to help really have some significant calming spaces for your students. And then we also have Making Data Meaningful in Educator-to-Family Communication because it’s really important to us at CCSC to also be looking at the data and how the data informs what we’re doing and what schools and districts are doing..
We welcome you also to visit our Be Well site [Bewell.wested.org], which is brand new and really, really great. It has a number of different. . . each of those four buttons you can click on and there’s a number of different resources in there. One of my favorite things on the site is the live feed from the Monterey Bay Aquariums Jelly Cam, and you can find that in the “Calm yourself” section, that blue button. So if you click that — and there are different resources in there — you’ll see the Jelly Cam. It’s actually one of my go-tos when I just need a little bit of calm. So definitely worth checking out.
And in addition to the resources and tools that we’ve just talked about, that really are universally available, there’s so many things on our website, I really encourage you to check it out. And then we also have a number of open events that are live synchronous events. So with that, I’m going to pass it back to Rebeca.
Thank you, Jenny. I do want to mention that for all of those audiocasts, the transcripts are available and any of the open events that we had last year, we have the transcripts and the recordings available for all of these as well.
Thank you, that’s the word I was looking for, so thank you.
Yeah, it’s okay. So here are some of these events that are open to anyone in this next school year. And so the first one is, we have been hosting a one-day virtual event as part of the Center, and it’s open to any California schools, districts, and supporting agencies and partners. We’ll have keynote and breakout sessions. It’s like a virtual conference. We have this scheduled for February 29th, so please save the date, and in the coming months, we’ll have more information and registration posted on our website. We’ll have breakout sessions, and the topics vary related to what we’re hearing from the field of whatever needs you might have. We just wanted to flag that for you so that you knew that was coming up.
We also have a virtual learning series that we’ll be focusing on this year that is on various aspects related to participatory approaches. So we’re kicking off these virtual sessions this year on September 27th. The registration for that webinar is in the Linktree. And this session, this first session, is in partnership with the national Center to Improve Social Emotional Learning and School Safety. And it’s a one-hour webinar type session. And then we have a four-part series that go deeper into participatory strategy, starting in November. And so these, the registration can also be found on our website. And this four part-series, these are 90-minute sessions that start with a 60-minute session and then an optional 30 minutes of small group discussion opportunity to connect with fellow practitioners in the field. So these four part, those are 90-minute sessions.
We are also continuing our School Climate Data Use Webinar series. We have been offering these since the launch of the Center. The ones that we’ve offered previously are archived, and the recordings are all posted on our website. This year we’re going to be starting with one that’s going to be co-hosted with UC Santa Barbara and the CalSCHLS team at WestEd, and we’ll be focusing on strategies to enhance life satisfaction for both students and staff. Again, the registration’s on the Linktree. And we’re also planning to host one with UCSF, with University of California San Francisco, on the mental health report cards this fall, so the date is coming. And we are going to be partnering with the California Department of Education on two webinars in January that are related to LCAP. So one is on engaging partners in LCAP data discussions, and then the other one is on LCAP school climate, metrics, and goals.
So those are the ones that are in the works, in the planning, or scheduled, and we will be hosting a couple more this year. And so that’s one of the reasons why we still ask for input from the field. When you registered, we had two questions as part of the registration, most of you filled it out. And so the top school climate data use areas of need that came from that question, these were the top four: data informed decision making, alignment of data with LCAP and other school plans, monitoring improvements, and leading data conversations. So we’re going to, hopefully, the plan is to design the other webinars that are focused around these topics that seem to have risen to the top as areas of need for the field. So I am going to pass it back to Jenny now to highlight some of these other opportunities that we have for select LEAs and schools.
Great. Thanks, Rebeca. So, in addition to those universal events and resources that we just shared, that everyone has access to in the state of California, the California Center for School Climate also provides targeted, and then intensive, opportunities for a smaller number of groups and teams and schools and districts. So, let’s take a look at some of the highlights coming up this year.
Starting with the School Climate Collaborative, which allows us to work with select LEAs to improve school climate and build local capacity through a year-long intensive and collaborative partnership. Last year, one of the districts that we worked with was Eureka City Schools. So they participated in the School Climate Collaborative, leading to that amazing family forum at Alice Birney that Kristin talked about earlier, which is why I could gush about her all the time and forever and ever. They’re really doing amazing things in Eureka, in particular that school is just a feeling of community that I haven’t seen at many schools. They’re doing some great stuff. So this year’s collaborative just kicked off yesterday actually. And we work with partner LEAs that will identify a school climate leadership team and then guide district-wide efforts, and then also support a set of onsite events co-led with us, CCSC staff, throughout the year. So we’re always really excited to be able to offer this level of targeted coaching and technical assistance, both virtually and then onsite with folks.
Then, I mean this is, it doesn’t really matter, but this is my favorite thing, Safe and Supportive Learning Environments Essentials or SSLE Essentials. It’s a professional learning series. It’s cohort-based and then also individual-based, depending on which cohort it is, either teams or individuals. And the Essentials lead educators and education leaders to integrate a broad cluster of research-based content and culturally responsive practices that they inherently work together to foster safe and supportive learning environments. Participants develop the mindset, knowledge, and capacity needed to infuse the practices into their everyday instruction and experiences of their schools, districts, or agencies. For this school year, we’re working with two new cohorts. The first started this week and runs through December, and it’s for small teams, small LEA or school teams. And then our next cohort will be in the spring. We don’t have the exact dates right yet, but you can add yourself to the interest list that is of course listed in the Linktree that Lan’s been pasting. So go to there, it’ll say SSLE interest list, and you can put your name and then we’ll let you know when we have more details.
And then we also have, as part of the SSLE Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, we offer Deep Dive courses. So, last spring we offered one that was Talking About Race as a Healing Practice and it was really so impactful for folks and popular that we’re offering it again starting in November. Applications are due really soon, they’re due October 6th. And, of course, you can find the link to the application in the Linktree or we’ll put it in the chat, one or the other. And then we’re also excited to announce that we will have another spring 2024 Deep Dive that’s going to be talking about building the restorative classroom. I’m really excited about that one. You can add your name to the interest list using that same SSLE interest list that you use for the Essentials. So one or both, however, if you’re interested in information about those things coming in the spring, please do put your name on the interest list and we’ll let you know.
We also offer two strands this year of our School Climate Data Use Peer Network. One is for LEAs this year and one for County Offices of Education. Similar to the School Climate Collaboratives, like what Kristin participated in, the Data Use Peer Networks involve a core LEA or COE team that works closely with CCSC staff throughout the year. They get individualized coaching and actually also in-person data use workshops and opportunities, and opportunities for them to meet with other LEAs or COEs, mostly virtually for that. We’re currently accepting applications for this year’s LEA peer network. So we definitely encourage you to apply if that sounds like something that would be useful for your district, if you’re interested in using local school climate data to support your school improvement goals, building local capacity in data use practices, addressing inequities in school climate supports and outcomes. If those are things that you’re interested in working on, please do use that link in the Linktree, another one, to learn more and apply for this really awesome opportunity.
Lastly, we have our most intensive offering. The CCSC team is available to provide direct support to LEAs via virtual coaching sessions. Sometimes those are one-on-one, sometimes in small groups. Sometimes we can help identify relevant resources or research that you need around school climate issues, and sometimes we can provide connections to other districts or partnering agencies or schools who are doing the kind of work that you want to learn about. So we are available to help out individual LEAs, and we have a TA request form that you can fill out. You can either use that QR code with the camera app on your phone, or shockingly, you can find the link in the Linktree that’s been in the chat with Lan.
So those are all things that are available to select groups through an application process. And then similar to what Rebeca shared just a little bit ago, about data use topics, we also asked you in the registration about your school climate topics of interest. So what came out of that, the top four were: meaningful engagement of families and partners, equity and culturally responsive practices, safe and supportive schools, and restorative practices. So we are doing our best to really have our year be about what you need. With that, I’m going to pass it back to Rebeca, to keep us going.
Thank you, Jenny. I think now we have a little bit of time in case there’s any questions that have come up. And Lan, do you see any questions for us?
I don’t see any questions that haven’t already been answered in the Q&A.
Okay, perfect. Okay. Thank you, Jenny and Kristin. Well, I’m sorry, thank you, Lan. But Jenny and Kristin, I’m wondering if there’s a question that we have for Kristin before we maybe transition?
Definitely, I do. One of the things that I thought was so amazing when I was at Alice Birney was one, that there were students — we did the thing after school — and there were students walking around still from the afterschool program or whatever they were doing on campus. And they came up to Kristin, who’s the principal. I was never like this with my elementary school principal. And they were just like, “Hey, what’s going on in here? Who are these people?” And Kristin introduced them to us and we were like, “Hey, how’s it going?” It was just a feeling, they walked around like it was really their home school. Really, I’m getting goosebumps now, there’s something just special about it from students. And then also when we met families, it was similar.
And one of the things that I found so interesting, Kristin, was that as families were sharing, yes, the things that are working really well, but also the things that they wish could be improved about family engagement in particular, you sat there with a list, taking notes, and then committed to them that you would figure out a way to work on every single one of those things and that you would loop back with them to let them know and have them be part of the process. And I think that shows a commitment, but it also shows a level of humility that is necessary for that piece. And I’m wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.
So first of all, Jenny, thank you. I think, again, the work is really hard, and so to receive that feedback from experts coming in. Again, that’s an embedded resource that we have in working with you, is that we can have a helicopter about the work we’re doing and we can helicopter from that work for a moment to actually look at, “Are the gains being made?” So I believe that that accessibility is a crucial element to leadership, and that’s going back to that theme of, “How do you share that leadership? When is it okay to have that dimension? And then when will I not necessarily be able to share that leadership?” And so I think that accessibility that you’re speaking about is a daily occurrence.
So we do a six by six, just to let you know that, which comes from visible learning. I’m going into six classrooms every week, talking to six students, and in each classroom, so 36 by the end of the week, asking them, “What are you learning? How do you know you’re learning it?” And so we’re having conversations around their academic learning and therefore that’s effecting that school climate. And so I think one, it’s accessibility. So we’re in classrooms a lot and we’re scheduling that on our calendars. I’m outside at dismissal, that’s a crucial element of that accessibility. And then I think that’s also then coupled with having structured opportunities, like the family forum, where we can be accessible, show that humility, not always have things coming at us that are spot on, but how do we deal with that?
I think one of the elements of school climate right now is how do you actually deal when it’s not going the way it’s supposed to. How do you deal with conflict? That’s what we see with our students, everything’s cruising along and then you want the thing I want at the playground, so I’m going to have a conflict with you. I see society not knowing how to have public discourse. So one of the most important things I can role model as a leader is how do I accept that feedback that might be a little strong or not what I want to hear, for example. How do I demonstrate that and role model that? That is such a teachable moment to my entire learning community.
Great, thanks. Kristin.
I think there was a question that came in the Q&A, and it’s like if you would have read it, but I think it came in while you were answering it, where the guest wanted to know about, they would love to hear more about opportunity students had to share with you on their needs and wants, especially the welcoming climate. So you alluded to how you go into the classrooms, but is there anything else that you wanted to share for that particular question?
Absolutely. So within that six by six conversation. . . so when I’m going in and talking to students, I have a set six questions I’m asking them. I record those, I share them back with teachers, so that teachers can tangibly see what students are understanding about their learning. And within those questions, one of them is, “Do you feel like you belong at Alice Birney?” That is one of my questions that I ask. So it’s not just an academic purpose, it’s also a socioemotional purpose. And so kids are able to ask me, “What’s that mean, Mrs. Sobilo, to belong?” And I’ll end up having a dialogue about what belonging means right there. And so it’s like you’re teaching these skills at the same time you’re evaluating how the program is doing within them.
Yeah, it’s nice to be able to take those opportunities to have those conversations as well. There was another last question that came in about the family forum meeting, what it looks like and what it feels like. And I know that we might all be able to answer, but I think it might be better if it comes from you as a school site. What does the family forum meeting feel like? What does it feel like as a participant?
So ultimately, it’s in our cafeteria, so just being real, it’s in the environment that we’re using all the time. At first it feels a little. . . there’s excitement because you know you’re coming into a space that’s a little different. There’s a big circle. There’s tables set up for food. So there’s a feeling like, oh, we’re here to do something. So there’s a slight awkwardness to that and a vulnerability that gets created from everyone that’s coming in that room. And so that I think is the art form that I watched Jenny and Kenwyn do, is that I’m a circle trainer. And so when you bring people together in sort of that environment, you’re feeling that awkwardness and you’re using it to your benefit that we are awkward, but we’re vulnerable and it’s meaningful that we are vulnerable in front of each other. So ultimately it’s in a cafeteria.
What it feels like is, it’s exciting to actually speak about what your school is doing. There is some trepidation. I know the teachers in the circle, myself, we are kind of wondering what is going to be the concern. There is a feeling like that, being transparent. But in some respects, back to what Jenny was talking about, I feel that accessibility on a daily basis and those phone calls that I had with those nine families, I was laying that foundation with them and I was starting to hear some of those concerns even before they came in the room. So that helped my vulnerability and helped me understand how I might navigate some challenging questions.
Thank you so much. I’m very thrilled, I’m sure Jenny is too, that the questions were really to learn more about what was happening at your site, because I think that’s the whole idea behind the work that we do, is to be able to learn more from each other and to make connections. And I know that you also offered your email, which is also available to you all on the link. And Jenny, I’m going to pass it to you as I go back to share the screen.
This is, when I think about the time at Alice Birney in the circle that day, I think about where I was sitting, and then behind me and to the left is this eagle that is on the wall. And it was cool looking already. And then I went up to look at it even more and I was like, “Wait a minute, what is this?” And Kristin said, “Oh, each of those feathers that you see are actually cutouts of students hands that they did and then put up there and made it the eagle because the eagle’s their mascot.” And I mean, it’s beautiful. And Kristin, if you could just tell us a little bit also what was the … it’s just an interesting process and way of being about community, but also learning academic stuff.
You got it. So, Jenny, this is rooted in. . . every year, Alice Birney, and even before my tenure here, Alice Birney would host a multicultural fair. We host it on the first weekend in May, around that area. And when I came on, it was a fantastic program, it was excellent, but I didn’t feel it had the integration and richness that it needed to have to the student population. We did it from 5:00 to 8:00 on a Friday. Students came, there was a connection, great family support, but not connected to them in their daily academic view. And so we have a local. . . one of our aides is this incredible artist. So again, we’re not alone in this work. So I tapped into her and I said, “How could we begin to create an art installation that would reflect the multicultural fair that we’re doing?”
Wait, ‘til you see the next one. We have one that is all picture frames right now that the students have done, and that’ll go up in another part of the cafeteria. But ultimately, this was an identity, us getting familiar with who we were. What culture do we bring to Alice Birney that makes that diversity more rich? And so they were even able to pick the colored paper that they felt reflected their own identity. And so they drew a hand. They talked about their identity, who they were, bringing to the eagle team, obviously that metaphorical idea. And then the artist actually put them together, and we used staff, our staff came together. We had it at one of the kindergarten rooms, and we just kind of started taping down and creating the structure. And so I don’t think we realized the magnitude of it until we were also looking at it, but that’s kind of where it comes from.
Thank you so much. Thanks for sharing that backstory about the eagle. It’s nice to see those examples, those rich examples, that are in school buildings that we don’t often get to see. And most importantly, I just want to thank all of you for making the time to attend the session. We know that it’s very busy during the school day to take some time to attend a session. So thank you for … there was over 100 of us here today. And most importantly, thank you, Kristin, for sharing all of your insights from your site in Eureka City Schools. It was very nice to learn more about what is happening at your site. And thank you to CDE as well.