As educators, we know the brick-and-mortar school is so much more than just sitting in a classroom; it’s where students develop social and emotional skills through positive interactions, connections, and friendships in their school community. Those skills are vital to set up students for a successful educational experience so they are ready for life outside of our schools.
When COVID-19 abruptly shut down schools across the country in March 2020, it became clear to the broader community just how important social-emotional learning is for each and every student. Those simple moments, such as eating lunch with friends and playing at recess, were stripped from our kids. Those are the moments that help build strong social-emotional skills.
Our district uses Panorama to collect data on the well-being of our students. Test data showed 7 percent of our third through sixth graders were feeling connected to adults in spring 2021 when we re-opened our doors to hybrid learning, compared to even just a few months prior when they were still having to learn in a fully remote model.
With middle and high school students, the same Panorama wellness survey data showed a 13 percent jump in the number of students who felt they had supportive relationships at school this fall, which is when we fully reopened our schools.
The data from our students strongly supported what our teachers, building leaders, and families were telling us: our students were struggling. This information drove us to hire additional social workers and behavioral health specialists to support our students’ social and emotional needs. We had these supports in place when we were able to fully reopen our schools in fall 2021.
Students need connection, and we must adapt to what our students are experiencing both inside and outside the classroom to provide the social and emotional support they need to succeed academically.
We will continue to do the work to help each and every student as we deal with, and hopefully work our way out of, this pandemic. It took so much away from our kids, but each day they are learning, and we will continue to support them so they can achieve their own success.