At Hayes Leonard Elementary, our mission is to maximize the potential of individuals to become self-motivated learners through meaningful experiences that challenge and inspire our students. Most schools have a mission statement that sounds very similar to ours.
Schools are accountable for the academic performance and growth of the students. Indeed, this is the work educators are charged with accomplishing. Ironically, the academic performance and growth of our students is not our number one priority.
Our number one priority is assuring student safety. If students do not feel safe, they will not learn. If we do not keep students safe, it does not matter what we have taught them.
Academic performance and growth is not our second priority, either. Our second most important focus is character development. It does not matter how much we teach kids if they do not go out into the world and use it for good.
Helping students feel physically and emotionally safe, and developing the character of our students are priorities the staff at Hayes Leonard builds into our daily interactions with students. Along with that, our school social worker is key to our success in these areas.
What does a school social worker do?
There is a common misperception that the school social worker only sees children who come from abusive homes or have been neglected. While these are children that the social worker helps, this is not the main work of our school social worker.
At Hayes Leonard, Mrs. Beth Aguayo serves our students in this capacity. Mrs. Aguayo helps us meet those top two priorities by focusing her time on teaching students skills and strategies for making our school emotionally safe, and developing the character of our students. She does mini-lessons with our students in the classroom, like a recent series of 1st grade lessons on the difference between “telling” and “tattling.” She organizes and meets with specialized groups of students who are having common difficulties - perhaps children whose parents are divorcing, or students who have difficulty nurturing friendships. Mrs. Aguayo facilitates a group on Lifeskills, which most 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students participate in at some point during the year. She teaches lessons on emotional intelligence, and interpersonal coping skills. Often times, students find themselves at a loss for how to navigate through conflict, and Mrs. Aguayo works with them individually or together on how to listen and compromise.
"I enjoy being able to meet kids where they are at, in their world of school,” Mrs. Aguayo reflects. “Social Workers in the school can be proactive about so many common issues that come in up childhood, friendship challenges, adjusting to transitions, building self-confidence, and learning how to resolve conflicts..."
Social workers are vital to our daily work in schools. Mrs. Aguayo fits a lot in to her three days a week at Hayes Leonard, and she makes a big impact on creating an emotionally safe school and developing strong character.