Special Report
Student Well-Being

It’s a Critical Time for Student Well-Being

By Lesli A. Maxwell — April 07, 2020 1 min read
Teachers in the Andover, Mass., school district made a “quilt” with notecards as part of an exercise during a professional-development workshop on classroom climate and culture. The notecards show examples of positive practices teachers have seen in their schools that contribute to a more welcoming environment.
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When our team began reporting for this special report, a deeper look at social-emotional learning in schools, coronavirus seemed a distant story, a new infection in central China that might eventually make its way to the United States. But in the span of a just a few weeks, this fast-moving virus was declared a global pandemic and has upended nearly every routine of our daily lives.

For our children, the disruptions are especially profound. The ritual of waking for school five days a week—where they are fed, taught, and cared for in ways big and small—has disappeared indefinitely. Of course, educators in many schools and districts are doing heroic work to replicate the live school experience in a virtual realm. But the reality is that no amount of robust digital interaction and connection can fully replace the deep need our children have for meaningful, in-person connections with teachers, counselors, and peers. The same is true for our teachers, our administrators—all of us.

Who oversees social-emotional learning in your district?

4%

District does not teach social-emotional learning

5%

A district-level employee who focuses exclusively on social-emotional learning

5%

The district superintendent

6%

The special education department

10%

The curriculum and instruction department

10%

The curriculum and instruction department

13%

No one at the district level

20%

The department of counseling/ social work/mental health

25%

Other

Source: EdWeek Research Center survey, 2020

Eventually, the virus’ spread will slow. Schools will reopen. But in this period when we must use social distancing, our report—a dive into social-emotional learning—is more relevant than ever.

Some students are fearful and angry for what the virus is taking from them. Others worry about how the cascading economic effects will impact their families and their own plans for the future.

We adapted some of our stories to reflect the reality we’re in now and added a piece expressly about how schools can keep social-emotional learning and supports going in a distant learning environment.

Before the virus became the story, we surveyed teachers, principals, and district leaders to capture their views on SEL. We’ll share some key insights from those results in this report.

To get through this trying time, taking care of students’ social-emotional well-being is imperative. Helping them manage feelings of fear and a sense of loss are critical, says Marc Brackett, the director of the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University.

“Because if you don’t know how to deal with the lack of control of your future, or the feelings of uncertainty that you’re having, your brain is going to stay in a constant fight or flight mode,” he said. “And if our brain is in flight or fight mode, then it’s not in learning mode.”

Sincerely,

Lesli A. Maxwell
Executive Project Editor

A version of this article appeared in the April 08, 2020 edition of Education Week as A Critical Time for Well-Being


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