- Before COVID-19, the New Caney Independent School District near Houston, Texas, had already started looking at ways to implement social-emotional learning tools to help support students through another kind of trauma — school violence, Eileen Belastock, director of technology and information at Nauset Public Schools in Massachusetts, writes for eSchoolNews.
- During the 2018-19 school year, the district worked with a data group to glean details on 10,000 students, identifying their SEL concerns. The following school year, the district launched SEL programs through grants at five schools, tapping into the 7 Mindsets programs that emphasize self-awareness, relationship skills and five other competencies. The program expanded district-wide even as schools went virtual during the pandemic.
- SEL learning was also woven throughout curriculum, across all grades, and teachers, staff and administrators believe this program has helped them support mental health and behavioral concerns for their students.
As schools reopen their doors to in-person learning, addressing students’ mental health is going to be paramount not just in handling learning loss concerns, but also in supporting pupils as they reacclimate back into the classroom.
Research has shown students who feel better while they’re in school may also have better academic outcomes. To support this, schools may want to refocus on what class time looks like. That could include placing more emphasis on rebuilding a school community and teaching students how to connect, empathize and share with each other, rather than focusing solely on learning and assessments.
Additionally, after any kind of traumatic event, be it a tornado coming through a community or the COVID-19 pandemic, wraparound services might be helpful as well. These focus on addressing needs not just in-school, but at home and across the community.
Schools shouldn’t — and most likely cannot — handle all of those needs alone. Instead, they may want to consider looking at outside partnerships to help provide mental health support that can be long-lasting and not just a one-time initiative. That could include partnering with organizations to train educators or creating staff hotlines for both teachers and parents to call for additional resources.