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October 1, 2020

Whole Child Spotlight: Why Social-Emotional Supports Are More Important Than Ever

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Social-emotional learning
School Culture
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One thing is certain during these unusual times: More of us, and to a certain extent all of us, are working in learning environments that are coping with the effects of trauma. What makes this period unique in this regard is the ubiquitousness of the trauma. The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone in education to varying degrees, from students and teachers to principals, education support professionals, counselors, school nurses, custodians, and of course families. It is critical therefore for schools to focus on creating protective and supportive factors to help alleviate the effects of this pervasive trauma.
ASCD's Whole Child approach aims to help schools design learning environments around 5 key foundational supports, including those ensuring health, safety, and support. Using ASCD's organizational framework, many districts and schools that are part of the Whole Child Network began this school year by focusing on these supports and by emphasizing and responding to social-emotional needs. Time was dedicated to reestablishing relationships, connectedness, and a sense of belonging across classes. Such supports are key to helping students—and school communities as a whole—cope with trauma and mitigate its effects on learning and well-being. Along with measures to keep educators and students safe, these supports will be more important than ever throughout this school year.
Sean Slade, ASCD Sr. Director, Global Outreach

Key Whole Child Indicators Related to Trauma-Responsive Schools

  • Our school culture supports and reinforces the health and well-being of each student (Healthy, No. 1).

  • Our school addresses the health and well-being of each staff member (Healthy, No. 5).

  • Our school collaborates with parents and the local community to promote the health and well-being of each student. (Healthy, No. 6).

  • Our school integrates health and well-being into the school's ongoing activities, professional development, curriculum, and assessment practices (Healthy, No. 7).

  • Our physical, emotional, academic, and social school climate is safe, friendly, and student-centered (Safe, No. 3).

  • Our students feel valued, respected, and cared for and are motivated to learn (Safe, No 4).

  • Our school provides our students, staff, and family members with regular opportunities for learning and support in teaching students how to manage their own behavior, and reinforcing expectations, rules and routines (Safe, No. 6).

  • Our school teaches, models, and provides opportunities to practice social-emotional skills, including effective listening, conflict resolution, problem solving, personal reflection and responsibility, and ethical decision making (Safe, No. 7).

  • Our school climate, curriculum, and instruction reflect both high expectations and an understanding of child and adolescent growth and development (Safe, No. 9).

  • Our school expects and prepares students to assume age-appropriate responsibility for learning through effective decision making, goal setting, and time management (Engaged, No. 9).

  • Each student has access to school counselors and other structured academic, social, and emotional support systems. (Supported, No. 4).

  • Our school staff understands and makes curricular, instructional, and school improvement decision based on child and adolescent development and student performance information (Supported, No. 5).

  • Our school personnel welcome and include all families as partners in their children's education and significant members of the school community (Supported, No. 6).

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