By Rhonda Schaar
Social Emotional Health is a catch phrase that is used quite frequently in today’s world. In education, school districts have been proactive in the need to address the social and emotional health of students for years. The public school is a snapshot of the larger society and its challenges. As our society has navigated an unprecedented global crisis the last few years a need to address the social and emotional health of citizens has become a priority. Schools have increased their emphasis of this important aspect to education as well, “Research shows that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011). ” (2016; https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-sel-essential-for-students-weissberg-durlakdomitrovich-gullotta)
Greenville Middle School began our journey of Social and Emotional education with a three-level approach. The first level was established 10 years ago when we implemented the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support school wide program followed by staff book studies. We chose the book the 7 Mindsets to Live Your Ultimate Life written by Jeff Waller and Scott Schickler for one study. This book study opportunity was a chance for teachers to establish the foundation of the principles of a healthy mindset for themselves as well as discuss application in the classroom. Fostering Resilient LearnersStrategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers with Pete Hall was also selected to support those students who have experienced trauma. The PBIS Wave Expectations set the foundation for school wide behavior expectations for all students to round off this first level.
The year after the staff book study we were able to implement a weekly mindset lesson providing the second level of our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skill development. The weekly lessons are video examples followed by classroom discussion opportunities led by the students’ Wave Time intervention teacher. There are additional resources provided to allow the teacher to “promote healthy school cultures”. This second level of SEL support for our students allows all students to focus on one of the common needed mindsets for a positive life. The mindsets we chose as a focus are; the time is now, we are connected, live to give, an attitude of gratitude, everything is possible, passion first, and 100 percent accountable as well as other character-building mindsets supported by our PBIS school wide expectations. We are grateful to the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County and the grant they provided to make resources available at Greenville Middle School.
Through the use of these school wide programs we are able to determine which students have a more intensive need for SEL and the competencies needed to be successful and contributing members of society. At GMS we use a third level of SEL to more intensively intervene with students through a variety of tools that assist in the building of skills and emotional resiliency learners need.
When it is asked, “What is Social Emotional Education and why is it an essential component to meeting the needs of students today?” At Greenville Middle School we are able to answer that questions with specific examples and success stories thanks to a compassionate and dedicated staff who put the needs of students first. We have made the social and emotional wellbeing of our students a priority in educational decisions. For more information please explore the information provided by the Ohio Department of Education. (https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Learning-in-Ohio/Social-and-EmotionalLearning)