May 27th, 2020

Focus on Building Connections

The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the lack of connection that many students have with school and with their teachers. In reviewing our district-level data from before school closures, we have found declines in the numbers of students reporting a sense of connectedness with their school. We are expecting those numbers to decline even further during distance learning. Our teachers have reported feeling not prepared to address the social-emotional aspects of their students' learning experiences, as well, which is why we are preparing to create training modules for teachers on SEL.

In order to support our students' instructional needs, our teachers rapidly pivoted to an online learning platform. Now is the time for us to develop common language around how we build connections with students and find ways to remove barriers to engagement, since SEL is not a stand along and needs to be embedded in everything we do.

Tags: Climate and culture, connection, student-centered

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Comments (5)

Comments (5)

Christina,
I am impressed with the speed at which your district is responding to the need for SEL by creating training modules. Are these trainings focused on adult SEL, explicit SEL instruction for students, or SEAD strategies? I'm just curious where your district is going to begin on this journey. Also, are these trainings based on the assumption that teachers and students will be in the classroom or are they designed so that strategies can be utilized in a virtual setting? I am very interested in the work you are doing!

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Hi Colleen! Thanks for reading my response and asking the question. The work of building SEL modules really began several months ago, as we wrapped up our LCAP stakeholder engagement process and found that SEL support was in the Top 5 of our stakeholder priorities. It was very clear back in October that SEL was a huge need from our community's perspective.
To support our teachers with SEL as we moved into distance learning, our TOSAs created a training module called Supporting Students with SEL, that some of our teachers have used. The focus of that module is on supporting SEL through check-ins and engaging activities during distance learning.
Over the last several weeks, we have been working with our counseling staff to develop a list of training needs with the ultimate goal to create additional modules for teachers and staff to access.
Finally, I would say that my biggest a-ha right now is that we need to get better about using SEL in our own practice as adults who lead adults. Implementing the 3 signature practices in staff meetings, PLC meetings, and PD would be a relatively simple change to make that could have big pay-offs.

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Christina, That is a chief concern. Many educators voiced concern about the issues raised by excessive technology in the classroom, and its correlation to students' increased feelings of isolation. Now that the Covid-19 crisis has launched us into making the classroom available online to our students, then how will we minimize these feelings of being disconnected.
My take would be to ask, what makes kids want to come to school. Well, a general answer is that they want to see their friends, or their favorite teacher, or play games with others. In a way, they feel belonging to others, so the school needs to make that happen. So how will we make them feel a sense of belonging is a good question that we can all work on.

Can this sense of belonging be achieved in a virtual classroom?

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Hi Morgan, I think it is possible for a sense of belonging to be achieved in a virtual classroom. I have seen teachers use very engaging strategies to get students involved in the learning, and some of our teachers have said that they have students who would never participate in class actually be very engaged in the distance learning environment. I think there are many lessons we can learn from the current situation we are dealing with, and hopefully when we can get back to the in-person learning environment, our students will benefit from the lessons we have learned.

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Hi Christina:
When you think about this huge challenge, what are the supports you need to build those connections? How will you develop common language?

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