By Cindy Arora
During the morning drop off at schools throughout Capistrano Unified School District, students walk through the gates of their school and find staff trying to connect with the students.
It’s a “good morning,” a smile, a high-five or a fist bump.
It’s eye contact, greeting students by their name, and sharing a personal story before the students start school.
Each small gesture is an unspoken olive branch of hope for students to feel seen amongst the hundreds on campus.
“We are really trying to celebrate our students,” said Omero Corral, Counselor on Special Assignment. “We are being intentional with how we are approaching our students’ well-being. We know things are going on and we are doing everything we can to help them.”
District-wide the importance of student well-being continues to be a focus for teachers and administrators who understand that honoring the overall social well-being of a student helps with academic success.
“What we are trying to do now is provide the same type of support and atmosphere at all of our schools for all of our students,” explains Cuco Gracian, Executive Director, Cultural Proficiency for Capistrano Unified. “We are trying to create district-wide consistency so we know how well we are doing as a school, and for our families. Every school has their own student well-being program and process so they can address the needs of their students.”
Student Well-Being Support and Programs is a part of the district-wide Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) program which has been a foothold at Capistrano Unified for several years.
The district recently has focused on well-being competencies students should develop during their time in school, which include self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills and social awareness.
Schools across the district are training teachers to specialize in well-being and are helping them create programs and opportunities for students from elementary to high school.
Examples include creating intramural sports programs in middle schools, creating moments for Positive Behavior Interventions, placing counselors in all schools, and turning rooms into spaces on campus where students can take a break from the stress of school.
At Clarence Lobo Elementary in San Clemente, a well-being pilot program school, Principal Laura Kindron has implemented well-being support and programs and has a teacher trained and certified to create well-being programs. The teacher is able to offer kids a place to talk about their feelings, find a space to rest if they are overwhelmed and having trouble regulating their feelings, or just need a place to take a test if they deal with testing anxieties.
“Her room is kind of a mindfulness room, because when you go see her, she has all of things to help students when they are having trouble emotionally regulating themselves,” Kindron said. “She’s also just amazing and she’s so good at talking to kids, helping them take deep breaths, grounding their feet, and calmly asking them what they need.”
Lobo has also had success with its sensory pathway, which was created for students to enjoy as they make their way to class, lunch, or recess.
“This path is to help students by keeping them distracted from negative thoughts and it helps them get their wiggles out,” said Kindron. “The sensory path is decals that go along our main hallway, some look like vines with numbers, paw prints they can walk on, lily pads they can skip from one to the other. It has worked really well.”
Families interested in learning more about the MTSS framework can go to the Capistrano Unified School District MTSS website.