Sunday, October 2, 2011

My first post

As written in my profile information, I am beginning my freelance writing career. While I love teaching writing at the junior high and college level, I miss doing the act of writing. I like writing about anything: short stories, poetry, essays, news articles, etc. I'm a character writer when it comes to fiction, so I have a hard time telling the story; I just like inventing very complex characters. You won't see any novels from me anytime soon.
In addition to working as a junior high teacher, adjunct college professor, and mommy (hardly feels like work), I freelance as a writer for a business that does leadership training for women. I am excited about where my new career will take me.
Below is a piece I worked on for schools considering Student Assistance Team programs:
The Need for Student Assistance Teams Programs
At the end of each summer students and teachers anticipate the beginning of a new school year with a mixture of excitement and dread. The latter feeling due to the inevitable good-bye to lazy, hot days and extended time spent with family and friends. The excitement begins to build at the possibility of new friends, experiences and challenges. This feeling can be marred as quickly as excitement builds. Parental problems, poverty, eating disorders, substance abuse and other societal ills can wreak havoc on a young person’s academic success. While a student may have previously been an A plus student, the stress of these types of problems can affect this student’s ability to focus. While teachers may notice a student, he or she may not have the time or resources to intervene properly on a student’s behalf. In fact, it may take a team of faculty members to truly shine a light on the student’s problems.
Schools that have a Student Assistance Team (SAT), have faculty members who are dedicated to helping students. The SAT is usually made up of teachers, counselors, administrators, and other staff members. The team is usually small, three to four members, but includes many secondary members who are also dedicated to student success. This team relies on referrals made by staff members, usually teachers who have observed concerning behaviors in class, as well as, students concerned about themselves or friends. Once a referral is made, the team starts by identifying the presenting problems. Rather than diagnose or treat the student, they hope to help the student and intervene if necessary. One of the biggest successes of the Student Assistance Team is that students realize there are people who care greatly about them and their success.
While placing a Student Assistance Team in a school may seem expensive, the cost is minimal. On some campuses, members are compensated with a stipend; however, on other campuses the positions are completely voluntary. Members are encouraged to talk and connect with students, which costs nothing to the district. Since the cost is minimal one would assume that the reward would be minimal, but this could not be further from the truth. Some of the benefits include increased attendance, academic success and self-worth in students. In addition, decreased drop-out rates and substance abuse are also some of the benefits.
Despite the benefits, many school districts are reluctant to implement student assistance programs. This is true especially among rural school districts. Administrators in those school districts may feel that they do not face the same challenges as urban communities, but the Suicide Prevention Resource Center notes that suicide in rural communities remains higher than suburban and urban communities. Suicide continues to be the third leading cause of death in teenagers.
While the Student Assistance Team cannot prevent all suicides among teens, it can help to diminish the number by providing ongoing support and early intervention among at-risk students. In addition, if a suicide takes place on campus, the SAT is there to provide extra support to a crisis team and possibly prevent copycat suicides from occurring.
The Student Assistance Team does not require a large amount of money to start and maintain. Whatever costs are incurred by the school district are minor compared to the positive impact the program could have on campuses. While the focus of the SAT is prevention of many social problems including substance abuse and suicide, it also helps students achieve academic success and develop lifelong learning skills as students’ self-worth increases and they take responsibility for their learning. All of this is possible with a group of caring school staff members dedicated to helping students.

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