It takes a Village
sys·tem noun \ˈsis-təm\
- regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole <a number system>
- a group of interacting bodies under the influence of related forces <a gravitational system>
- an assemblage of substances that is in or tends to equilibrium <a thermodynamic system>
- a group of body organs that together perform one or more vital functions <the digestive system>
- the body considered as a functional unit
- a group of related natural objects or forces <a river system>
- a group of devices or artificial objects or an organization forming a network especially for distributing something or serving a common purpose <a telephone system> <a heating system> <a highway system> <a computer system>
- a form of social, economic, or political organization or practice <the capitalist system>
I happen to be a lover of definitions. But for those, a bit more visually inclined, let’s revisit the graphic from my original, “What is School Social Work” post.
I appreciate that Broffenbrenner captures, not only the micro, exo and macrosystems but also the interplay between the individual’s various systems (mezzosystem) and the interplay between the individual and time (chronosystem). As Social Workers we take all of these systems into consideration in order to get the most comprehensive picture of what is happening in the lives of our students.
A systems approach to Social Work expands our ability to intervene in ways that might otherwise be overlooked. Here are a few examples of systems level interventions taking place at U.T. Elementary :
School System Intervention: Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Staff System Intervention: Teacher Time
Teacher time is an idea that I got from a Social Worker back when I was doing my very first internship in SSW. I have been eagerly anticipating putting this concept into practice, ever since that time. After all, teachers (at the elementary level) spend 6-8 hours a day with our students, which for some kids is more time than they spend with members of their own family. For this reason it is imperative that teachers feel acknowledged and supported. A healthy, happy teacher who shows up to class with a full bucket, affects an entire classroom of students. At my school Teacher Time is a monthly gathering in my office. It can be done in many ways to suit campus needs. Teacher Time might have a “happy hour” feel, designed so that teachers can kick back, relax and chat with friends. It could also look like a more formal group opportunity to process the every day stressors that teachers might otherwise face in isolation. It could include treats like free hand massages (if your budget allows) or wellness activities like yoga or meditation. You know your campus best, so use your professional judgement and try something out.
Family System Intervention: Parenting Workshops
Parents and families are, of course, the key to our students’ academic and social-emotional successes. That is why I offer monthly parenting workshops that align with the SEL concepts the students are learning here at school. Giving parents a place to voice their concerns as well as the opportunity to practice concepts consistent with the students’ learning is one of the many ways to foster a spirit of collaboration between home and school.
By now, you know what is coming next. What about you? How have you assessed and/or participated in systems level interventions on your campus? What is quick and easy? What is difficult and hard to maneuver? Speak up! How many Social Workers does it take to revolutionize school systems throughout the country…Well, it is simple, as is almost always the case with our kids, our parents, our teachers– it takes a village!