In 2014, Muscogee County School District received funding from Project AWARE. Project AWARE is a grant to help build systems for school-based mental health support services. With this funding, MCSD has implemented different positive behavioral interventions and supports services (PBIS) to increase social and emotional learning (SEL). Social and emotional learning is a process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Each school is given the PBIS framework to create their own social and emotional learning program that fits the needs of their students.
Here are some examples of programs local schools have implemented to encourage social-emotional learning:
Second Steps Curriculum
MCSD offers a few different curriculums to teach SEL. One of these curriculums is Second Steps. At the beginning of each day during their morning meeting, students receive a lesson on social-emotional learning. Each week, a different topic is chosen. For example, one lesson may be around conflict resolution. “So, the Monday meeting we might teach 3 steps to resolve a conflict peacefully. Then, the rest of the week, we will talk about those steps and how to use them; maybe play a game, have a conversation,” explains Kenya Gilmore, Director, Prevention and Intervention Support Services at Muscogee County School District.
Data-Based Decision Making
Each month, school administration looks at the referrals issued to students for negative behaviors. These referrals are grouped by grade, gender, actions, etc. If a trend is noticed, students are retaught a certain lesson in the social-emotional curriculum. For example, if numerous 7th graders received consequences on bullying, the entire bullying lesson would be retaught to that grade.
Check in/Check out
Another feature many schools have built into their PBIS framework is check in/check out. Students who struggle with attendance, multiple referrals, grade issues or are just in need of extra support are eligible for this program. They are assigned a mentor to meet with at the beginning of each day. Throughout the day they must have their sheet signed by their teacher to track certain goals and behaviors. At the end of each day, the student follows up with their mentor and receives positive reinforcement if the goals are met. After some time, once an improvement is seen, students are phased out of this program. Some students, though, only thrive with the extra support.
At St. Mary’s Magnet Academy, Vice Principal Zara Williams has introduced yoga to a small group of students as part of her PBIS framework. She uses yoga as a tool to help students self-regulate, become more in control of their mindset and effectively manage the obstacles faced in their lives.
As of this year, every school in MCSD is participating in PBIS at some capacity. Some schools are at a distinguished level while others are still in the early phases. Schools have noticed by establishing positive, safe, caring and interactive learning environments, their students are developing better relationships with staff. With a stronger relationship, students can trust and feel safe in their environment. Additionally, the support given to students’ emotional needs is improving their development of appropriate social skills and reducing referrals for inappropriate behavior.
For more info on implementing social emotional learning in your household, visit: mcsd.connectwithkids.com