The COVID-19 pandemic has changed virtually every aspect of our lives, and it’s more important than ever that students have the tools and resources to safely address their feelings and emotions. That’s exactly why our district is committed to offering the best, most impactful Social Emotional Learning resources possible.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is all about giving students the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions. It helps them achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Last year our School Board formally adopted a new Social Emotional Learning Curriculum for elementary and middle schools, and our teachers and social workers spent the year giving students the foundational knowledge to use the curriculum.
Snail and Puppy are two puppets from the Second Step curriculum that teachers can use to help younger students talk about emotions. As kids learn to recognize the emotions the two puppet pals are expressing, they can learn to recognize those emotions in themselves and their peers. Snail and Puppy also help demonstrate problem solving skills for dealing with conflict.
“We are so proud of the work that our teachers are doing with Social Emotional Learning and using the Second Step curriculum with our kids,” said Dr. David Hammond, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools. “This was an important piece going into this remote learning model and all the challenges that families are facing right now.”
Hammond said elementary teachers start their live Zoom sessions using the SEL curriculum.
“We’ve found that’s really beneficial,” he said. “We think starting out that way each day, in a positive way and with that lesson, is really helping.”
Camilla Fredrikson, who teaches first grade at Spanaway Elementary, is already using several resources in her Social Emotional Learning toolkit. She admits the move to distance learning hasn’t always been easy from a SEL standpoint, but she says her students have been receptive and responsive to the changes.
“It is definitely a lot of work, but it feels like I have had the opportunity to make more connections with families, in more meaningful ways, in a shorter amount of time,” Fredrikson said.
SEL at middle and high schools
Our middle and high schools are also focused on connecting with students and families.
“The SEL piece is huge,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools. “Our teachers are doing a great job of taking time to connect with our students, which is really big, and making sure that they have a sense of how kids are doing.”
Bethel Middle School Principal Julie Schultz-Bartlett said her teachers have been using Advisory time several times a week to host virtual “circles” with students.
“Our circles employ the chat feature of Zoom for simple quick responses, and gives all students an equal chance to provide their voice. Some students also unmute or turn on their video to share their views,” said Schultz-Bartlett. “We’ve had to adapt our strategies, but the goal remains to connect with every student and build a community of learners.”
“Teaching remotely is really, really hard,” Bethman said, but our teachers are making sure our students have what they need to be successful.
“A big ‘hats off’ to our teachers,” she said. “They are working hard and they’re making a difference for our kids.”