Right now, attention is turned to all sorts of planning for next school year. To name a few, these plans include academic calendars, instructional frameworks, disciplinary procedures, emergency responses, and succession planning. The ONE plan that every school must create for next year is a social-emotional (SEL) plan.
Now, let’s be honest. The tendency is to focus heavily on academics meaning that SEL is pushed to the side or considered a counselor responsibility. Both thoughts are extremely short-sighted. Only when healthy school culture is combined with strong teaching can students fully reach their potential.
Niyoka McCoy, the Chief Learning Officer for Stride, authored an opinion piece published by Newsweek offering to help students deal tragedy. In speaking of her personal experience with her own child, she said, “I wanted to pinpoint her fears and use them to refocus her pain.” You can find the full article here.
School Improvement Teams must consider ways to adapt these strategies by creating intentional and forward-focused SEL plans. Hosting a single assembly during the year (or once a semester) is inadequate for your students and families. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
- Survey families and students at the beginning of the year to get a baseline – make this survey optional and keep it as short as possible.
- Create a whole-school focus each month that is modeled – the leaders share and model in faculty meetings so others can take back the ideas to their contexts. Be sure to include all staff – janitorial or cafeteria – as valuable team members who can help advance this message. If you are looking for ideas, the course “Reframing an Existing School’s Culture” has sample calendars and cards that may be of value.
- Encourage adding these SEL messages to regular family communications – you can leverage social media or record special messages for the school community. Also, share the message during normal times the community is on campus such as sporting events or parent nights.
- Survey families and students at the end of the year for comparison – use the same survey BUT there are two additional considerations. First, add a final, open-ended question asking their suggestions for improvement. And, second, only reach out to those who responded the first time to give you a great opportunity for analysis.
If your students are socially and emotionally strong in school, yes, you reap academic benefit. However, there is an even greater outcome – socially and emotionally strong schools produce socially and emotionally strong adults, which offers tremendous benefit to society as a whole.
And don’t forget, by adding an SEL plan to your school, you are living the fact that:
TEACHERS. DESERVE. BETTER.