Beyond reading and math

Published 9:06 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

School is back in full swing.  With summer break now a distant memory, teachers, students and parents’ lives will shift for the next nine months.  For our scholars this means being tested, tested and tested some more.  In this age of super-accountability, testing is as routine as having lunch daily.  Although we need this data to improve outcomes for the children and families that we serve, we must move beyond reading and math.

Recognizing that our students need much more than just academic acumen, this year the Selma City Schools will add a focus on social emotional learning or SEL.  One of our strategies within the culture, climate and community area of our strategic plan is to develop a framework for social emotional learning.  According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. 

Last school year, our middle school earned a well-deserved reputation of being a place where student fights were all too common.  Our young people resorted to physical violence to settle arguments, to save face or to prove a point.  The reasons varied but the results were the same and usually lead to one or more of our scholars being suspended out of school.  This means lost instructional time, missed meals and being disconnected from the school community.  Social emotional learning is needed in our classrooms.

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The Selma City Schools’ framework for social emotional learning will address conflict resolution and anti-bullying for our scholars.  Bullying is a national epidemic and we are committed to addressing it.  Dr. Marchina Harrell, our director of learning supports, will lead this important work.  She believes that “Social and emotional learning skills provide students with personal resources and relationship skills that enable them to benefit from and emotionally connect to positive classroom environments that contribute to further SEL and academic growth.  Teachers that teach these skills improve students’ access to growth opportunities in the classroom and beyond.”

Additionally, we are working to ensure that our learning environments are nurturing and that our teachers and staff have the supports needed to be successful.  This is important because many of our children and their families experience trauma during the course of the school year.  Our framework for SEL must include creating trauma-informed schools.  This means that the adults in our schools must recognize and respond appropriately to children who are impacted by traumatic stress. This means we must empower our scholars by educating the whole child.  This means that we must teach beyond reading and math.

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