Opportunity in the Gaps
In my meetings with district leaders this past week, it's clear no one knows what the school day will look like in the Fall. However, one thing is certain - there will be gaps. Will the gaps be in the morning, the afternoon, every other day, four days a week, just for some students or all students? That remains to be seen. These gaps are where I see huge opportunities to support the social emotional well-being of children. The Covid-19 crisis has increased our capacity for empathy, ability to collaborate remotely, spurred unprecedented initiative, and forced us all to practice emotion management on a daily basis. This environment is ripe for intentional social emotional growth. As we continue to refine our equitable online learning platform, we're building in the same supports we would for our in-person programs. We're also keep the design flexible so we can support any school day model. We've had great success with our drop-in "Empower Hour" sessions so far. We're doing SEL activities like dynamic mindfulness, yoga, feeling talks and kindness crafts. These activities also require little or no supplies, thus allowing for greater equity and access. We also have credentialed SEL coaches that can move a child into a breakout room for one-on-one help processing a frustration or process a trauma. Just like in-person, an emotional check in with a caring adult is sometimes much more important than a science lesson. We have to design for those moments, give space for these moments, even in a virtual classroom.
The main barrier I foresee to realizing a student's full EQ potential during Covid-19 is shifting our mindsets from the individual to the collective. "Our students" is no longer a term exclusive to schools. The whole community must rally around students' education and emotional health. With the deep budget cuts projected for the state, our challenge is to design the most efficient, synchronous system that leverages the strengths of everyone involved in a child's education. With all the possible permutations of a school day I've heard being discussed, what does "after school" even mean anymore? Expanded learning providers will be offering services all day - before, during and after "normal" hours. Parents will be substitute teachers and enrichment providers. It's all a big jumble. The more collaborative we are in this time, the more coordinated and effective will our SEL efforts be. One person, one organization, one school, cannot do SEL education alone. SEL must be woven into the fabric of the school day, home life and virtual learning space. We can only do it together.