Interview with Ms. Suzie Cook by Diya Patel, Samantha Torres, and Jacky Cheng

What does a school social worker do?

John Lewis said, “Within the breast of every person is a spark of the divine.” That’s the job of a school social worker–to find the spark of the divine in every child, tease it out, and show it to them so they can embrace it. I do it through working with the child individually through therapy sessions (groups and individual), and also working with the child’s interaction with his whole environment–home, school, history, etc.

Can you give some advice to students who are struggling to focus and are too scared to ask for help?

I was always the kid in school raising my hand and asking for help. I have a really hard time with reading comprehension, so it takes me a long time to process abstract concepts. It was embarrassing for me to continually ask for help. But I noticed that whenever I did stop the teacher just to say, “Wait a second, can you say that one more time?” or “I missed that! Can you say it again?’ or “Would you mind explaining that another way?”, that students would whisper a thank you because they needed it too. So I think one thing to keep in mind is that just because it SEEMS like everyone else gets it, you don’t know what other people are struggling with. You helping yourself helps others too. It takes courage, but you have courage.

How would you describe your personality and how does it affect your work?

I think the only natural thing about me, the only thing that comes without effort, is my innate enthusiasm for serving. It struck me when I was 8 years old walking my neighbor’s dogs and has struck me like a lightning bolt over and over again–I must be actively engaged in serving others. It’s when I most feel most like myself, when my heart feels the most full, when I have the most 
fun. Love, listening, passion, empathy–things that most people think are gifts are really just skills that have to be learned and practice. But my need to be of service is the drive at my core.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

Being innately driven to be of service has pros and cons as a school social worker! It means that I’m independently motivated–I don’t slack off, get lazy, or need praise like I do in other areas of my life. But it also means that I’m extremely emotionally invested–I lie awake questioning things I could’ve done better, agonizing over mistakes I’ve made, ways I could’ve shown love and mercy but instead was impatient for progress.

My family does a lot of exploring–most Saturdays you’ll find us poking around a random neighborhood in the city looking for a good bookstore, a cozy coffee shop, an interesting museum exhibit, a good-smelling farmer’s market, or hunting down and fiercely debating the best ice cream/tacos/French toast/doughnuts/fries/ramen/pizza in the city (ample hills/coney shack/French louie/dough/randolph beer/chuko/juliana’s, in case you’re wondering. Don’t tell my kids or my husband–it will come to blows.) I take exercise as seriously as religion, so I’m an avid biker, runner, and push-up doer. Don’t mess. And I have a bunch of sisters that live close by, so we play soccer in the park, make waffles, laugh about everything, and dance around with the kids making dinner listening to Chance.

What college did you go to and what did you major in?I went to Brigham Young University and studied sociology–the study of the relationship between people and their environments. That’s when I really fell in love with learning. I was always interested in lots of things, but only really ever found myself really engrossed was when I was studying people. I also wen
t to New York University for my Master’s in Social Work and majored in social work with an emphasis on adolescents and trauma.

What are your two favorite books?

Native Son, by Richard Wright and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I found a beat up copy of Native Son at a cafe in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was changed forever. I can’t describe how much this book means to me, but it showed me how light from another can spark fire and 
illuminate the humanity and a desire for love and freedom in the darkest, most depraved soul. I closed the book and thought, ok. That’s it. This concept is what I will give my life to. Some people innately know who they are, the rest of us have to search. But it’s the spark of faith and belief from others that can help us connect to our core truth.
Just Mercy is my bible. Its core principle is in its title–just be merciful. This book helped me to realize that I so rarely have to judge if someone is a good or bad or lazy or ungrateful or selfish or who made what mistake and why they should know better, a preoccupation that is infused in the conversation of everyday life. I just don’t have to do it. All I have to do is to try to understand why. The more information we have and the more we understand, the more we are naturally merciful. People are full of flaws and we are all continually learning at each other’s expense and that makes us relatable and human. It’s pointless to do anything but just try to understand, be merciful, and help if you can.

Is there a quote that inspires you the most and if so, why?

[A leader] with anger issues, who’s always blowing up at people, or reacting in ways he can’t control, will unintentionally create an angry or abusive personal culture. [A leader] who’s conflict averse, on the other hand, will create a quiet, but bitter and back-stabbing environment. The organizations that I have worked with that have been the most difficult culturally, have been the organizations that have been most determined to repress the negative aspects of their own behavior. Their own individual leadership behavior and drive those behaviors underground only to have it pop up in politics and in nastiness. And we don’t even see it coming. So those are the things that terrify me. If you’re not consciously, intentionally creating your culture, a culture is going to get created around you, or despite you.”–Jerry Colonna, Executive Coach

Everything on the inside is already on the outside. There are things we run from, things we’re scared to face and try hard not to face, things that are scary and uncomfortable. But you can’t run from something inside you–it’s inside you! The truth will always out. And one way that truth will come out is in your personal climate. The climate that surrounds us will always be colored by the internal issues that we have not resolved. All our fears, insecurities, hurt, and pain that we carry around color our actions and words–you can’t hide anything because people can feel it and see it. I think the best thing that you can do if you want to be of the greatest service to others, is to examine your mind, your actions, and your heart with an attitude of acceptance of your total fallibility and humanness. If you can intentionally decide what kind of environment you want to carry with you in every interaction and every conversation, you can affect people for the good, but more importantly you can build yourself into the human you want to be and piece by piece, create a masterpiece with your life.

102 Stars in New York Road Runners’ TV Advertisement

102 students perform as well on running tracks as they do in the classroom. Thank you Ms. Merino and the always amazing NYRR for this opportunity to showcase what 102 is all about.

March 16th, 2017 is Parent Teacher Conference

Before emails, cell phones, text messages, websites, WeChat, and tweets, Parent-Teacher Conferences really was one of the few ways parents can talk with teachers about their child’s performance in school. Things have changed. Our teachers regularly communicate with families on the progress being made by our students, and Parent Teacher Conference shouldn’t be just another way for teachers to tell you something you probably already know.

Here’s what you should do: Speak with your child’s teacher not just about how they are doing, but what you should be doing next. Whether it’s reading more newspaper articles, practicing on Khan Academy, making up missed projects, or students getting their cell phone privileges taken away, families should go home on March 16th knowing exactly what they should do the next day to help their child succeed.

To help you with this aim, our literacy coach Ms. Jenal, ENL Coordinator Ms. Bagni, and our STEM coach Ms. Beltran will be hosting several short workshops on reading with your child as well as using technology to prepare for the state test. After meeting with teachers, you will be able to attend these short workshops and ask questions about how to support your child like an expert.

Additonally, Parent Coordinator Ms. Pimentel is organizing a schedule for parents needing translation on Parent Teacher Conferences so that our translators do not get overwhelmed during “rush hour”. If you are willing to translate, please reach out to Ms. Pimentel at 718-446-3308 ext 1331.

Home and School: Connecting the Thread of Routines


Your child’s classroom is a base with a flurry of knowledge, exchanges, ideas and productivity. As children make attempts, learn from failures and gain from achievements, there come structures that teachers pave from the beginning and carry on throughout the school year. From the start of a new year, students learn the rules and follow specific routines that create expectations that we all benefit from. And much like the moving gears of a class community, this type of structure might even be more important in the home.

A child’s active learning process, while exploratory, sits on the backbone of routines and rules. With that come age-appropriate rewards and consequences. Transferring what your child is accustomed to in his or her class and bringing that back home is a team effort. When you create an environment of academic expectation at home, you build the groundwork for learning and behavioral success that doesn’t end when the dismissal bell rings. The following are just a few reminders and suggestions you can try for your child(ren).

1. After school, set up a routine such as: snack, homework, checking the homework, then an activity of his or her choice. Setting allotted time for homework (ex. 45 minutes) is a useful tool. This means that your child will have to use all of that time for homework, or more if need be. This might help to alleviate problems such as rushing to finish his or her assignments. If your child finishes homework early, they still use the remainder of the time for some other academic practices.

2. Rewards for good behavior, making good choices, and earning good grades don’t need to cost money. Sometimes, a walk in the neighborhood together, 30 minutes at the playground, throwing a ball in the yard, helping to cook or bake, or an extra bedtime story is all that a child needs to feel rewarded

3. Speaking of bedtime stories, children can never be too old for them. Whether they read to you or you read to them, setting up 15 minutes or so each night for this important moment is a great way to wind down the day and builds on the bond with your child. It supports routines and paves a road to the love of books!

4. Setting up a regular “going to bed” time.

5. When issuing consequences, consistency is key. Consequence such as taking away technology, social media and outings should to be carried through. It might be easier for a child to disobey at home and at school if adults “give in”.

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