Guest Blog: Betsy Basch, CSI Mental Health Programs Coordinator
SEL School Supports at CSI Schools
CSI charter public schools continue to develop and implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices. CSI’s Mental Health Programs Coordinator, Betsy Basch, supports CSI school leaders and mental health staff with consultation, training, and access to high quality mental health resources. Betsy collaborates with crisis response teams to develop practices and also assists with compliance and managing relevant grant funding.
“I want to make sure each of our schools has access to develop culturally competent, culturally aware and inclusive social emotional environments that value health and wellness for all.”
What is social emotional learning?
Social emotional learning (SEL) is “is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.”
Developing social emotional skills for all students and staff has never been more important! Research has shown that depression and anxiety rates for children, adolescents, and adults have never been higher, and access to mental health services can be difficult to attain. Teaching adults how to practice self-regulation, self-management, and interpersonal effectiveness skills allows them to teach children and adolescents how to practice these skills as well. We often overlook the importance of these skills in leadership, community functioning, and professional interactions. Longitudinal data shows that many adults never learned these skills at school and now, we’re lost trying to guide a generation to wellness.
What can we do?
A great first step for any school is to begin to think about systemic wellness and skill building. Making sure that students have access to healthy skill-building, have a connection to the school, and giving them opportunities to practice active competence saves money, increases academic achievement, and improves attendance. Part of my job is to help schools build a wellness vision that includes the school’s mission and values, as well as interventions for facilitating SEL, and to support in the creation of a tangible plan and procedure for implementing and developing social-emotional skills.
See these stories below of schools that have seen dramatic gains with their SEL implementation:
SEL in Action at CSI Schools
Stone Creek Charter School | Edwards, CO
Clara Meyers, Mental Health & Wellness Coordinator
“‘Engage the mind, energize the community, elevate wellbeing.’ That is what we strive for and value here at Stone Creek Charter School (SCCS). We are human-centered, student-focused and truly believe that a culture of trust and belonging are essential to a positive learning (and working!) experience. At SCCS we understand the importance of teaching our students more than just the necessary academic skills. We strive for each of our students to continue on from our school as individuals who are bold, compassionate, and responsible. With this goal in mind, SCCS has built a tradition of learning upon values and virtues implemented through our character education and social-emotional (SEL) curriculums.
We utilize an amazing SEL program called SecondStep. This is a school-wide program, not only for students, but staff as well. Our students receive weekly, age-specific lessons on SEL skills related to emotional-regulation, conflict resolution, problem-solving and more. In our Adult SEL learning we explore topics such as building trust, managing stress and cultivating resilience. We meet together in small groups each month to discuss the learning and to brainstorm how we can make positive change for individuals and the school community as a whole. We know that teaching is a profession of love, and an educator can only give their best when their personal wellness is addressed.
One teacher shares, “I have noticed a major shift in the way co-workers communicate with one another and support each other. We are learning that we are not alone in this profession; many times we are actually going through similar challenges and successes. This [Adult SEL] program gives us an opportunity to talk about [those challenges], work through them and promote growth and learning from them” (Meghan C. Kindergarten Teacher, West Campus). If you spend time on SCCS campuses, you are sure to see teacher shout-out boards, notes of encouragement, some folks taking a walk in the sunshine and lots of laughter!
SCCS also uses The Positivity Project, a virtues curriculum that encourages positive character development by focusing on character strengths such as honesty, integrity, generosity, and empathy. Our students have exposure to these, and additional virtues, year-long and have the opportunity to practice and discuss these with classmates and teachers. In an effort to recognize our students for practicing these virtues, “virtue vouchers” are given to students when others see them demonstrating a virtue and they are entered for a monthly drawing. Furthermore, we invite the parent community each quarter to celebrate their students with us during a Virtues Ceremony where students are recognized publicly by their teachers. These are really special moments!”
Steamboat Montessori | Steamboat Springs, CO
Emily Barnhart, Head of School
“Visit Steamboat Montessori on a Friday morning and you will witness the most heartwarming sight as our staff and students engage in what we call, Friday Families. Friday Families incorporate every staff member and student, from our 3-year-olds to our sixth graders, in a mixed-age setting. Two teachers from different disciplines and levels join together with a small group of students for a 5-Minute SEL lesson focused on topics such as self-regulation, gratitude, brain knowledge, friendship, kindness, etc. followed by an opportunity for structured play (all planned by our SEL teacher).
Leadership and mentorship are encouraged and nurtured in our older students, while our younger students are thrilled to develop relationships with the “big kids.” Our staff have found that the time spent with students of different ages gives them a renewed reminder of the importance of serving the whole child, developing authentic relationships, and the realities of planes of development. The opportunity for our 3-year-olds to wave to 5th graders in the hall and give their “family signal” builds our students’ sense of belonging that contributes to the rich community we are fostering.
Staff and students are encouraged to see themselves as integral parts of our school’s fabric and as such have meaningful ways to contribute while holding unique roles and responsibilities. Steamboat Montessori gives the gift of self-discovery to each child and students are honored for the individuality and gifts that they bring to our school community. As one of our 2nd grade students recently stated in Friday Families, “It just feels GOOD to go to school here!”