“Have you heard of pushing someone’s button?” Ana Garcia asks the students in Room 107. “It’s what happens when someone knows what annoys you and does it anyway.” The fourth-graders nod their heads. They’ve all been there. Maybe it’s the big kid at recess who won’t stop teasing you, maybe a classmate who takes your pencil without asking, then grabs your eraser. “What can you do when someone pushes your buttons?” the animated teacher asks. “You can take a deep breath, a belly breath.”
Ms. Garcia leads the fourth-graders in a big collective breath. One breath, two breaths, three breaths. Eyes are closed. Hands are on thighs. There are a few giggles when someone snorts. But the fourth-graders at Ardmore Elementary School in Bellevue know this is serious business. They’re used to talking about real emotions in front of each other, and they’re thoughtful and engaged when the discussion moves to the mined emotional territory between annoyance and anger.
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Students at Roxhill Elementary School don’t have to look far to get help. Adults are everywhere. There are parents in the crosswalks, the hallways, the lunch room, and the classroom, guiding teachers in what’s best for their child. There are visiting doctors and dentists, social workers and mental health counselors, and the nurse-practitioner who has a health clinic set up in a converted closet. There are lots of nice community workers and big kids from the high school to tutor, help with homework, make it better when you’re sad, and call to check that you’re OK if you don’t show up for school.
“Our students see Roxhill as a safe place where all these people are here to encourage and support them,” says Jonathan Aldanese, the school’s house administrator and a graduate student in the University of Washington’s Danforth Educational Leadership Program. When he arrives at school two hours before the morning bell, the West Seattle school is already full of children. “Instead of being home alone, they can be here, in a place where people really care about them, help them catchup, find them enrichment, refer them to programs, and seek opportunities to ensure they are successful.”
This nurturing, wrap-around environment is built on a matrix of powerful partnerships bringing together UW researchers, school educators, families, and community organizations. “It’s a way to think about what education could be and should be,” says College of Education Professor Leslie Herrenkohl, a developmental psychologist and learning scientist who directs the college’s 3DL Partnership with School of Social Work Professor Todd Herrenkohl.
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