New Year. New school culture. Ideally, all districts that plan to focus on positively transforming school culture in 2019 should have one thing in common: an understanding of the importance of addressing culture concerns as they emerge — before they pile up, resulting in insurmountable challenges down the road.
Administrators often have concerns that are specific to a school, a classroom, or even a student. But although each school and classroom is unique, there are some challenges that are universal, regardless of population or location. Here are just a few of the top concerns we’ve heard from administrators for 2019, and some suggestions for how social and emotional learning (SEL) can help.
- Student Achievement: Administrators want to promote learning and ensure better outcomes by making engagement and curiosity central to learning. Fostering an engaged student who is asking questions, understanding cause and effect, and wanting to know more will get better results no matter the subject.
SEL Solution: Studies have shown that students who are emotionally supported and engaged are better performers and get higher scores, so enabling students to learn essential social-emotional skills like growth mindset and agency will help them perform at their highest levels.
- Losing Students: Are students attending school, staying in class, and learning to their best abilities? Administrators tell us that they worry about lost students through chronic absenteeism, misconduct, and disrupted learning.
SEL Solution: By giving students the social-emotional skills to deal with difficult moments and rough patches, administrators can reinforce motivation and engagement for ALL students in school and prevent anyone from slipping through the cracks.
- Mental Health: Administrators say that they’re concerned not only with the physical and mental security of their students and teachers while in school but also outside of school. Students are facing high achievement pressure, cyberbullying, and other major triggers like divorce and trauma that contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
SEL Solution: Administrators can support students and mitigate an anxiety-ridden culture by helping them to practice and build resilience, develop strong coping mechanisms, and allow students to access the support of mental health professionals if needed. Leaders can use SEL to support their most vulnerable students, responding to a student’s needs while pushing for achievement.
- Parental Engagement: The role of parents has shifted as they can get access to real-time status notifications about their students’ grades and status in school. But while some parents have become very involved in their students lives and the school community, others remain aloof and uninvolved.
SEL Solution: By engaging and educating parents about the social emotional skills they can use at home, administrators can crack the code to get more parents to be active and involved in students’ lives and the school community.
- Recruiting and Retaining Teachers: Are teachers feeling supported and like their concerns are being heard? Administrators want to make sure that teachers feel engaged and have strong relationships with leadership, one another, and students.
SEL Solution: Professional development focused on SEL can help teachers learn concepts like growth mindset, strong relationships, and coping mechanisms that will support teachers in their roles and create a successful school culture that will attract educator talent.
- Technology: Any list from 2018 needs to include technology– students today are far more technologically advanced than any generation in years past. If teachers aren’t adequately bringing together education and technology in the classroom to teach new concepts, they risk losing student engagement and interest.
SEL Solution: Delivering SEL through a blended or online platform can accomplish two goals at once: giving your students critical social-emotional skills like agency and growth mindset while engaging them through a method that makes them feel comfortable and engaged.
- Feeling supported in the administrator role: Administrators are tasked with managing staff, developing a strong leadership team, understanding and supporting the school culture and community, not to mention the larger administrative tasks including funding and reporting. As the last person to receive social and emotional support, the well-being of administrators are often left off lists like this one– but practicing self care should be a priority for administrators.
SEL Solution: Professional development that provides administrators with opportunities to learn social-emotional skills can provide the same mental health support and relationship guidance that underpins a school culture of success.