As summer is under way and many teachers are engaged in professional learning and curriculum development, I find myself reflecting on the year we just spent together. Of course, we are all eager to take a deep breath and slow down -- that is important. But it is also important for us as a district to assess where we have been, celebrate what we have accomplished, and plan next steps for the immediate and long term. As we give ourselves this report card of sorts, I am thinking about our progress in the area of social and emotional learning.
Social/emotional Learning (or SEL) is no longer a buzzword or an abstraction; it is not something for the school counselors and psychologists to worry about alone. Through our adoption of the competencies described by the Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning, SEL is a critical component of an Edgemont education across all grades -- separate from academic success but crucial for it. Research has repeatedly shown that people - especially students - cannot perform when they are struggling with stress, depression, and/or anxiety. Additionally, our increasingly global and interconnected workplaces require people who know how to empathize, navigate relationships, persevere, and communicate. In light of these facts, SEL has become a part of daily lesson plans, curricular development work, and everyday conversations. We couldn’t say that a few short years ago.
In terms of technology and social/emotional health, our district made enormous strides this year. Issues around digital citizenship and social behaviors -- not concerns today’s parents dealt with when growing up -- face our children every day. Tech Health expert and author Janell Burley Hoffmann spent three days with us in November, working with students, parents, and teachers. Janell’s workshops sparked important initiatives and conversations throughout the district. The Technology Action Plan Committee began drafting a K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum and will complete it this fall.
Teachers in all three buildings have made SEL a priority in their professional development. Beginning in September on Superintendent’s Conference Day and continuing until the very last Superintendent’s Conference Day of the school year on June 27th, teachers explored these questions:
How does your awareness of the academic, social/emotional learning competencies affect you as a teacher and a person?
How are we becoming more knowledgeable about cultural competence and implicit bias in order to be socially/emotionally competent leaders and educators?
There are committees of teachers and administrators actively working on this priority at the secondary and elementary levels. We have hired assistant principals at both elementary schools who will help our schools become even more attuned to the needs of our students. From curricular programs to recess and lunch policies, the new AP’s have fresh eyes and innovative ideas to bring to our leadership team to make sure our students thrive academically, socially and emotionally.
What we have learned throughout the year is that in order to provide authentic experiences and be role models for our students, we have to do the work ourselves. We must ask ourselves, what area is our sweet spot and what area is in our blind spot? Self-awareness, social awareness, responsible decision-making, self-management, relationship skills -- how do we model them and how do we teach them?
In an effort to extend this discussion to parents, I invite you to join our book group. The first book is Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology by Diana Graber. This book is appropriate for parents of all ages of students -- there are many take-aways and different chapters that pertain to age-related topics. The topic that resonated with me is the importance of teaching children empathy. It reminded me that the issues and concerns we have for our students and technology are very connected to social/emotional learning. You can support the Edgemont Elementary PTA (representing grades K-6) by ordering the book here, and the Edgemont PTSA (representing grades 7-12) by ordering the book here.
Please watch for the book discussion schedule in our Back-to-School communications. I wish you all a wonderful, safe, and memorable summer!
With gratitude for your partnership and support,