Ceres Learns

Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 4 - Social-Emotional Support

May 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4
Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 4 - Social-Emotional Support
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Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 4 - Social-Emotional Support
May 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4

Join Superintendent Scott Siegel and members of the CUSD Student Support Services team in talking about the social-emotional impacts of social distancing, ways students and families can manage their response to this situation, and resources available to help. With guests Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services; Brian Murphy, Coordinator of Student Services; and Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist.

Show Notes Transcript

Join Superintendent Scott Siegel and members of the CUSD Student Support Services team in talking about the social-emotional impacts of social distancing, ways students and families can manage their response to this situation, and resources available to help. With guests Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services; Brian Murphy, Coordinator of Student Services; and Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist.

Introduction:   0:07
Hello and welcome to Ceres Learns at Home hosted by Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Scott Siegel. This weekly Q and A covers distance learning and other topics related to school closures for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. To ask a question for a future episode, email [email protected] Now your host, Dr. Scott Siegel.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   0:34
Hello and welcome to episode 4 of Ceres Learns  at Home. In this episode, we'll talk about the social-emotional impacts of distance learning as well as the resources available to support Ceres Unified School District students and their families in managing their response to the situation that we all find ourselves in. I'm pleased to be joined today by my guests: Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services Jay Simmonds.

Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent, SSS:   0:56
Good morning, folks.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   0:56
Coordinator of Student Services Brian Murphy.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   1:00
Hi everybody.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   1:01
And District Psychologist, Nichole Sablan.

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   1:02
Hello, listeners.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   1:05
I want to thank each of you for being here. So when we started the school year back in August, about eight months ago, I don't think any of us could have predicted or imagined what a dramatic turn everything would take in such a short amount of time. Not only are routines disrupted due to social distancing, schools are closed, there are adults' livelihoods turned upside down with the economic impact, and many of us are feeling cut off from the network of people who serves our support system, – our friends, our family members, co-workers and our students and teachers.  Jay, Brian, Nichole,  what could you say right now to our listeners who may be feeling overwhelmed, uncertain or anxious about this situation?  I know I have quite a bit of anxiety and even some sleepless nights over this, so what can you tell us?

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   0:00
Dr. Siegel, that's a good point, the sleepless nights. In fact, that's a common reaction during uncertainty or times of stress. There are certain behavioral symptoms and also physical symptoms that we can experience not only as adults, but as children. Another example would be irritability. We would also feel a loss of appetite or difficulty concentrating. In our students we might see them bounce off the walls, we may even see some physical symptoms such as complaints of stomach aches, headaches or anything like that.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   0:00
I would say that those are all normal emotions that many of us are feeling or going through right now. While each of us are uniquely impacted by this virus, ultimately, we're all experiencing in this crisis together. I believe there's comfort in knowing that we're not alone going through this and that there is support during this time available to those most in need.      

Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent, SSS:   0:00
Times are definitely stressful, and what I want our listeners to understand is that we're here to help. We have all kinds of resources available. You can check our website, and we push out notices through ParentSquare. You're not alone and we're here for you, so I just want people to remember that.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   2:57
I've been hearing a lot about self care lately, and especially during times of high stress and anxiety, I'm curious about what that might look like for students, our families and staff during this time, and how they might use that to help with these emotions and uncertainties.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   3:12
For me, proper self care begins with maintaining as much of a routine as possible. Whether you're a student or an adult, it's important to keep up good sleeping habits, go to bed and wake up at a decent time. Stick to a daily schedule that includes time to complete your work. Break that up if you need to, get in an hour of exercise or physical activity, dedicate time to disconnect from technology. I think sticking to a routine can bring stability when there's chaos and help bring a sense of normalcy to a rather unusual time. Nichole,  what do you think?

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   0:00
Self care is certainly important. It reminds me of when we go and embark on a plane. The first thing that we hear is we are reminded during emergencies that we need to put our oxygen mask on before we put on the oxygen mask of our students or our children. And in this case, this is certainly true; self care is certainly important. And what our kids need in order to be healthy is having healthy caregivers. So looking at self care is an important thing to do. With that said, there is a difference between self care and self comfort, and I'd like to talk about that a little bit. Self care is something that we do that takes care of ourselves, deals with emotions that may not feel good initially. I'll give you an example. It didn't feel good waking up this morning when it was still dark and putting on my running shoes. However, once it's done I'm certainly relieved, and I feel much better. The other case is during times of stress we do have higher levels of cortisol. What does that mean? Basically, it's stress hormones, and during those times we have cravings for sugary snacks. I know for myself I love to go for a bag of Peanut M&Ms, which is my favorite, but it's not always wise to do that. So during these times, again, to practice self care is more important than self comfort.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   5:02
So it sounds like things like making sure we're drinking enough water, eating well, getting enough exercise, enough sleep – those are all important things that we should do take care of ourselves. Now, along those lines of taking care of ourselves, we are around a certain group of people when we're in a shelter-in-place, and it's our family and extended family, for very long periods of time, and I think that that can be very stressful without normal outlets for recreation, social interactions or just being able to get away. How can we support our family members and be kind to one another when, frankly, we start getting on each other's nerves?

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   5:34
Well, I can certainly speak from experience on this one, Dr. Siegel. I have four children at home. My son is in 1st grade, and I have daughters in the 6th, 8th and 11th grade. In the beginning of the closure, there was a lot of uncertainty about what was going to happen, which caused a lot of anxiety in our home. My wife and I immediately realized that we had to establish some sense of stability, and that we could do that through creating some routine. Through routine comes a sense of many accomplishments, which in turn, releases dopamine in our brain. I know as a result of this my kids are in better moods, have better attitudes and, overall, are going to be nicer to one another.  

Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent, SSS:   6:09
Brian, what do you mean routines? Does that mean daily structure, what do your routines look like for your kids?  

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   6:15
For our family, we try to structure the time so that we can provide fun time for our kids, but then also work time for our kids. It's important that we're challenging them during this time, so we allow them to have an hour of work time here, mixed with some recreation time, and then coming back for some chores. And then there's time for reading and then right back to some schoolwork time. So it's not about sitting on the video games for 4.5 hours. It may be sitting on the video games for 30 minutes as a reward for them accomplishing something throughout the house.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   0:00
During these times, we can get on each other's nerves, which is quite easy as we're trying to balance school and work and all sorts of responsibilities. I think a lot of the irritability or annoyances that we get come from unspoken expectations. Let me give you an example. I have two boys at home that are doing their own work, and I also have to manage Zoom meetings. So these are just meetings that are done online and I have to be present to the people that are on the Zoom meetings. And it's hard when one of my boys will come over and ask a question when I'm in the middle of a Zoom meeting. What he sees is that I'm working in front of my computer. He doesn't realize that I'm actually in a meeting, So it's important for me to communicate to my family that I'm going to go into a meeting and during these times that I will be unavailable. However, he's important to me, and I want him to know that. So I set guidelines and expectations that during meetings, Zoom meetings, and how long they're gonna be, I'm going to be unavailable. But I'll certainly check in with him as soon as I'm done. 

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   7:55
Some of our parents are concerned or have shared that their students are experiencing a lot of anxiety and pressure related to learning from home. Is that expected or not, and what can our families do to help manage those feelings if students are having them?

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   0:00
Those are all common reactions and feelings that we have during these times. There's a lot of unknowns, there's a lot of unstructure, and our students are used to having help from their teachers and support of their classmates. So during this time we anticipate there's some level of stress. What we could do is focus on, one, is how do we connect with our kids? How do we communicate our feelings and let them know that these are all normal? The next thing is then to redirect. How do we problem solve? Once we establish the feelings and meet the students where we are, we can certainly come up with some sort of plan or action that we can put into place to ensure that our kids have the help that they need. Sometimes it's asking our teachers for additional help. Perhaps it's asking for support from family members, or sometimes it's asking for help from our classmates who are in the same class and can help us with the subject matter.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   9:03
I think some level of stress and anxiety is to be expected during this time. Again, stick to a routine every day as a family. Take time each day or a few times a week to do something fun together. Go outside for a bike ride or a walk, play in the backyard, or perhaps do a board game – anything that helps break up the monotony and boredom of the situation. I think taking time to check in with your kids individually is also important. But if you do feel the level of stress or anxiety is higher than usual, especially when it comes to learning from home, start by contacting your child's teacher. I'm confident that your teacher can provide that immediate support to at least get them going on their academics.

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   0:00
Brian, I think you're making some really good points. We can find ways to make learning fun. For example, we can use measurement in terms of cooking. We can even have, which my kids like to play, school, where my student was the teacher. And I know that if my child was able to communicate what he is learning, I knew he acquired the material.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   10:01
Thank you both for that information. I think that's helpful. I also want to emphasize that we shouldn't get ourselves too worked up over the learning. It shouldn't be overly stressful. There are bigger things out there right now. So do the best you can, and if that's the best you can do, that's gonna be good enough and will help fix things when we get back in school. It may seem to some of our listeners that they wish that the biggest thing they had to worry about was whether their kid was getting their work done or they are getting stressed out about their education. For a lot of our families right now, there are big things going on. It's possible that, with 25% unemployment, that half of our families with two working parents may have somebody out of work right now and, in a lot of cases, may have both parents out of work. It's possible that some of our families may be wondering about how we're gonna get food on the table and how we're gonna pay our rent and what we're gonna be able to do economically. Can we even stay here? How is this going to work? In those times, I think that there's a lot of stress that is really, really big and I just want to ask, whether it's a small thing like worrying about a homework assignment, or a big thing, how can our families know when it may be time to seek outside support?

Nichole Sablan, District Psychologist:   0:00
Dr Siegel, you're bringing up some very good points. There are families, and it may be you, who are going through some really difficult challenges. I want you to know that we're all here for you. If you should need any sort of support, we do have Ceres Healthy Start who is available. The number is 209-556-1559, and we're happy to get you connected to the available services. If you're saying that I have a need outside of office hours, there is another number, and we've made this really easy. It's just three digits, 211, and it could get you connected to the sort of services that you may need that Dr. Siegel mentioned. Whether it's food, whether it's housing or healthcare or whatever the case may be, those services are available to you. There's also hotlines and lifelines that you can access. These are all available to our families 24 / 7. In addition to that, I'd like to speak to the question that you had, Dr. Siegel, about how families, or when, they would know to seek outside support. And this is when you've exhausted all of your strategies – everything in your tool belt – and still you're not getting the outcome that you desire. We're all here to help, and there's no shame and asking for help. I would say let the professionals, those that are trained, to be able to help you during this difficult time.

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   12:29
I think those are all great resources that Nichole mentioned. I think it's also important for our families to know that we've been hard at work with our own support staff here in the District and working with them on creating a number of ways that they can best support all of our students through this distance learning. We have our Student Support Specialists and our Social Skills Facilitators who are working diligently to connect with our students to help them and their families manage those feelings of stress so that they can handle those things within their home. But again, I just wanted to reemphasize those resources that are available within our community for families that may need to seek that outside support. And Nichole, as you mentioned, there is no stigma related to this since we are all in this together, as I mentioned. But again, if you do need support as a family, we want you to reach out. Those numbers again to reach our Ceres Healthy Start, 556-1559, and they can contact you with services as well. And then, in addition to that, utilizing the 211 number to access those community based resources as well.  

Jay Simmonds, Assistant Superintendent, SSS:   13:37
I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the expertise we have in the room with Brian and Nichole and working for the District to solve these problems and reach out to everybody and remind them that this will pass.  

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   13:50
I also want listeners to know that, as a District, we remain committed to supporting the social and emotional well-being of our students through this school closure and as we eventually return to school. Know that each school in Ceres is currently updating their plans for reopening to include the social and emotional supports needed to help students transition back into school..

Brian Murphy, Coordinator, Student Services:   0:00
Something that's important to keep in mind during these situations is just to be mindful of the things that we can control. The other thing is, is to understand that these feelings that we have, they are just states and not traits. Meaning this is going to pass, this is not who we are.  So, even though we may be isolated, or rather I should say, feel isolated, this is all temporary and that we'll all be together, we're all in this together and will be face-to-face together again. Know that we will become stronger as a community through this, and I thank you for all your doing in terms of doing your part to make sure that our community remains safe and healthy.

Dr. Scott Siegel, Superintendent:   14:54
That's all just fantastic information. It sounds like the bottom line is this: If our listeners, related to the school District's students and their families, are feeling overwhelmed and they just need to reach out to somebody, we're here and you can always contact the numbers that Nichole and Brian talked about, or just call your school site and we'll hook you up with the right people. I'm looking forward to having you all back maybe next fall so we can talk about the programs that we normally have for social-emotional learning available for students and our staff and our parents. So I want to thank Jay, Brian, and Nichole for sharing this valuable information and thank our listeners for tuning in. Please remember to send your podcast questions to [email protected], and join us Thursday, May 13th for Episode 5, Distance Learning with Special Education, with my guest, Kristi Britton, our Director of Special Education.