When I met with all of the chaplains on Thursday I received my school assignment, Columbia Elementary. The school is in an old part of downtown Fresno, west of the State Highway 99. The student population is 75 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African American, and seven percent Asian. There are five first grade classes with whom I will be working. One fortunate aspect of the assignment is that I have previously worked with the principal. She was a home ec teacher at the school where I did my first student teaching assignment. Although not my master teacher, she was next door to the teacher with whom I worked and a good friend to her. She left the classroom to become an administrator and came to the high school where I taught as the federal and state program’s manager. In other words, she handled the various grants at the school.
Many of you have been curious as to how the Fresno Police Chaplaincy school resource chaplains work in the schools. Over the next few months as I become more involved with my work, I will share what I learn so as to help others understand the program. First of all, we are fostering resiliency in the children, beginning with the first grade. To do that, the chaplain goes into first grade classrooms once a week to read a story and then through questions and discussion focus on certain aspects such as impulse control, optimism, emotional regulation, empathy, risk-taking, and determining how to make wise decisions for effective solutions to problems. The chaplain is also available during lunch and recess to students and staff. At no time is the chaplain proselytizing.
For the month of September I will be observing current chaplains who are starting their second or third year at the school they are assigned. In October the newbies will begin at their assignments.