Each year, the College of Education hosts an event focused on fostering dialogue and meaningful exchange between College faculty and regional school district, community college and non-profit partners. This research to practice exchange provides a venue for exchanging ideas about research and problems of practice in our region. The organic give-and-take, where researchers and practitioners come together, is a powerful moment allowing the work of both to support each other. By engaging in dialogue around key issues of practice, University and community partners develop potential research collaborations to help address these problems of practice. This year’s event, brought educators together for an afternoon highlighting mental health and wellbeing, a topic that is of particular interest and concern in urban settings. Participants examined important strands within this topical area, related to multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)/social-emotional learning, trauma, identity, and microaggressions.
School district, community college and community partners from Irvine, to La Mirada and Long Beach, along with CED doctoral students and College faculty listened as panelists, Bita Ghafoori (College of Education), Betina Hsieh (College of Education), Erin Simon (Long Beach Unified School District), Alisia Kirkwood (Long Beach City College), as well as Daniel Solís of the California Conference for Equality and Justice led a focused dialogue, sharing their expertise and efforts promoting mental health and wellbeing in educational institutions and community settings. The dialogue that grew out of this question expanded beyond the day-to-day aspects of nurturing a culture of care in the classroom. Instead it focused on the need to see students holistically, beyond their role in the classroom, to better understand external factors that may be manifesting as classroom issues. By creating this shift in perspective, educators can better meet the student where they are at, and offer individualized support.
Following the opening panel, subject-matter experts facilitated small group discussions where faculty and community partners pushed deeper into specific problems of practice related to MTSS/social-emotional learning, trauma, identity, and microaggressions, and explored potential research collaborations to help alleviate these concerns. Each group, sharing their conversations with the larger audience, allowed for the event to come full circle, expanding on some of the themes shared earlier in the panel.
As educators, the need for dialogue and action around mental health and wellbeing is becoming more and more critical to supporting students. This event reinforced the vital importance of better understanding mental health and wellbeing, and the great need to push the conversation forward.