Our school is in the third year of implementation of restorative circles although we are not at 100% I would have to say those that are consistently utilizing the circles are seeing some great results in connecting with their students and allowing them a safe place to be heard and to listen to one another. Our school is also going on the third year of implementation of PBIS and has an on-going partnership with Character Counts. I take great pride in the school that I work with and my principal as well as our district admin. that have given us some freedoms to explore and help address these concerns. Over the past year we dove in feet first and held several parent academies that were all restorative circles with only the parents. At first it was a little hard for the parents but after a while they were the ones driving the conversations that were not only their ideas or questions but their solutions.
With that being said, our staff, our families are hungry and wanting more. Our students pre pandemic were walking through our doors with complex issues that the majority of our staff were not equipped to handle. Through PBIS, Character Counts, and restorative circles we have begun to build their foundation to help these students, our staff, and our community but... it is not enough.
I truly believe that until we make SEL an academic area as heavily weighted as math or reading or writing we are not going to see results in fact we will be doing a disservice to our students. No longer can SEL take a back seat, a place where ohhh if I have time I will fit it in my schedule. Teachers need a solid curriculum that they don't have to whip up every time there is a crisis. Our students need these social-emotional skills just like they need phonics skills. It is not enough to think that a quick chat once a week is going to be a cure all. When a child doesn't know how to read we teach them. When a child doesn't know how to do a math problem, we re-teach it. When a child doesn't understand a pivotal point in history, we try teaching it from a different angle. If a child has a melt down our answer can't be punitive and it can't be just sending them to the office. A child needs to be taught, re-taught those skills just as much as any other subject.
Above all, it needs to come from the top down, someone at the top (district/state) needs to say it has to be given a chunk of time daily even if it were just 10 minutes a day but those 10 minutes are guided through curriculum and research driven data to truly address the issues our kids and families are facing on the daily. Teachers need to be given that clear direction that it holds importance on the daily schedule and with that schedule needs to come training/curriculum so that there is some equality in what all students are getting. I am currently sitting on a small committee within our district looking at SEL and how we can best equip. our community once we come back in August and would love the opportunity to share and explore through the ACSA community as well.