Supporting students beyond their academic needs, including social and emotional learning, mental health, safety, and overall well-being
Schools feel increasingly responsible for supporting students beyond their academic needs, from promoting social and emotional skill development to providing mental health services. It can be challenging to develop and maintain a school climate in which all students and adults in the building feel a sense of safety and belonging, especially since the experiences that students bring into school, including trauma and poverty, can affect learning. School staff need strategies for building positive relationships with all students and teaching SEL skills. Explore the challenges related to School Culture, Climate & Safety -- Mental Health & Trauma, Student-Teacher Relationships, Student Engagement, Social-Emotional Learning, and Inclusion & Belonging -- below.
Mental Health & Trauma
School and district staff are concerned that their students are experiencing increased mental health issues and that many are affected by childhood trauma, which can make it difficult for students to focus on learning. Districts are also responsible for supporting students’ physical wellbeing by maintaining safe and secure school buildings. How can schools adopt trauma-informed practices, and how can they respond to crises such as bullying and the threat of gun violence?
Educators recognize that to grow and persist at school, students need teachers who know them as individuals; who care about them, believe in them, and understand what they need to succeed. But relationships take skill and time to nurture. How can schools support teachers to build positive relationships with students with varied background and needs?
Districts and educators strive to promote student engagement, including student interest and ownership over their learning. Engagement can be a challenge if students find learning experiences to be disconnected, boring, or difficult. For many districts, measuring student engagement is also an ongoing challenge.
Many are looking beyond academics to understand how to support students’ social and emotional well-being. But it can be difficult to integrate SEL skills and competencies — including empathy, collaboration, and decision-making — into curriculum, especially since these skills haven’t traditionally been taught or assessed. How can schools best build students’ SEL skills in order to cultivate a positive school climate?
Inclusion & Belonging
Districts want schools to serve as welcoming spaces for students. They strive to prevent bullying by supporting students to learn skills like empathy and citizenship, and to understand how their behavior and language can help their peers feel included and safe.