Dear Stevenson Families,
As many of our students are re-entering SHS for the first time in many months, they are certain (as are all of us here in the building) to notice the ‘new norms’, from wearing face masks to one-way aisles in the hallways and the now recognizable floor stickers indicating a safe 6 feet distance from each other. As we navigate our new normal together as Patriots, it is helpful to remember that we are asking our students to, yet again, develop new routines. For any of us who have either started a New Year’s resolution or have to create another pandemic routine, we know it can evoke feelings of concern and uncertainty and even bring forth questions about our own abilities to continually navigate during a time of so much change. To help our students during this transition, we are harnessing the strength of social skills and emotional intelligences to generate an explicit and tangible culture inclusive of belonging, safety, kindness and care we know is an integral part of the Stevenson school community. Social and emotional learning (SEL) skills can be an incredibly useful lever right now - both in school and at home - to help our students build new routines and find motivation and inspiration to start this semester confidently and finish this academic year with successes. As you guide your student through the next several months, I offer some practical strategies to support building and maintaining their new routine during a time of change:
Reinvigorate and Reinvent
Identify the rituals and routines you already have in place each day and during the week. What is working well? What would you like to change? Now might be a good time to choose one or two routines to keep and one or two you would like to help them change to better navigate in the spring semester. Also ask yourself and your student about what new routines you can implement together to respond to new challenges that arise during times of change.
Keep Routines Positive
Keep the conversations around building new routines positive, low-pressure, and as an opt-in. What’s realistic? What needs to be changed a bit to find successes? Students can be supported and encouraged when they struggle to develop new emotional muscles during this time. Even small messages of care and concern can bring comfort and familiarity to them as they find their way and forge a path ahead.
Find excuses to celebrate something each day! Routines can be a great conversation starter to provide students with a much needed dose of positivity and fun. What are you struggling with? Oh, me, too! Rituals and routines do not always have to be mountain tops to conquer or a means to grand successes. Sometimes they can simply justify our daily happiness! I got up when my alarm went off and walked the dog early: YAY! You got exercise and fresh air to start your day. That’s a win - good for you!
Introduce and Re-introduce Student Responsibility
Have conversations about what it means to be a responsible (fill in the blank - family member, employee, student, etc.). The recurring conversation can help fill gaps of self doubt and feelings of isolation. Our students matter here! We want them to show up in the classroom - physical or virtual - and share themselves as an integral member of their high school community. Each time students are reminded about how to show up, it gives them a chance to repair mistakes, find better ways to engage, and eventually feel successes.
Allow room to talk about relationships and their value. Building routines can invite relationships with others around you by building trust, moments to share care, and feelings of belonging. Creating daily practices can also create bonds with peers and adults that can grow over time. Finding ways to discuss the value of repetition and predictability when it comes to each other are both important ingredients in positive and developmental relationships.
Students will have routines and rituals that differ from each other. You may even find your own children operate under different self-management systems! We can do our best and allow space for each student to carve out their individuality and create routines that work for them. We can also do our best to understand cultural differences and appreciate various comfort levels and motivations students have to ensure inclusivity and respect emerge in our greater school community.
I find resources at CASEL as well as the PEAR Institute support our work to integrate SEL at Stevenson as we all develop students’ SEL skills and build efficacy during this time of transition and, I hope, you may as well.
Molly A. Gosline
Social Emotional Learning Coordinator