By Eva Barrows
Three million elementary to middle school-aged students are suspended each year, and 46% of teachers leave the profession before their fifth year, according to the Peninsula-based mental health agency Acknowledge Alliance. Acknowledge found that the solution to these and other classroom issues is the presence of a caring and positive relationship with an adult in a student’s life. Many times this adult will be one of the student’s teachers. To build trusting relationships between students, teachers and administrators, Acknowledge Alliance brings their suite of counseling services to the classroom.
Acknowledge Alliance’s new Midpen television series, “Resilience from the Heart,” will explore the agency’s services through panel discussions. The first half-hour episode is dedicated to the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom. The panel was moderated by host Jenée Littrell from the San Mateo County Office of Education. Acknowledge Alliance Resilience Program Manager, Tracy Lyons gave an overview of how SEL classroom lessons are implemented. Kennedy Middle School principal Steve Hamm; Barron Park Elementary School teacher Sylvia Sanders; and Columbia Middle School teacher Emily Moorehead spoke about the benefits of SEL lessons.
Sarah Kremer, Resilience Consultation Program Director at Acknowledge Alliance, helped develop the new television show. Through the show, she hopes to demonstrate that “SEL helps engage students deeper in their learning.” When students are learning, Kremer says that they need to feel safe and comfortable. “A student might do really great work with an individual counselor,” she says, “it’s hard for that student to try out the new skills that they’ve learned or to change their attitude when the classroom environment hasn’t changed.”
The SEL episode, “Resilience from the Heart” covers an elementary school classroom where a lesson, administered by a therapist, on exploring emotions is taking place. Students identify when they feel certain emotions and share their findings with classmates. “We want to ensure young people understand their own emotions, understand the emotions of others and know how to work well with other people,” says Kremer.
The teachers and principal on the panel talk about specific changes they saw in classroom behavior after SEL lessons. Students interacted more positively and understood each other better. “They’re learning how to better use their brain and respond to how their brain works,” says Kremer. The students are actually able to identify what part of their brain is triggering a certain emotion. SEL lessons equip students with appropriate coping strategies to respond to those triggers and effectively change the culture of the classroom.
Look for Acknowledge Alliance’s new Midpen show later this month on Midpen’s YouTube channel to learn more.