Social Emotional Learning Program Brings Smiles to Teachers and Students in Mississipp

 

Picture yourself in kindergarten.  Do you imagine well-behaved, well-adjusted children, able to articulately identify, manage, and express their emotions?  You’re not alone if you are imagining just the opposite; children struggling to find and use words and tools to appropriately manage heightened emotions.  More than 34 million children in the United States have experienced trauma, which directly impacts the way children interact with each other and learn.  Currently, there are no national laws or standards requiring trauma-informed practices and social emotional learning (SEL) to be implemented in schools.  Thankfully, districts across the country, like in McComb, Mississippi, have recognized the significant impact these programs can have on their students and are prioritizing such work.  Now, in kindergarten classrooms in Kennedy Early Childhood Elementary school, students are provided support daily and are building a toolkit to help manage their emotions.

“I didn’t realize the importance and need of kids expressing themselves emotionally at such an early age.”

- Principal Thomas

Principal Felicia Thomas is in her fourth year as principal of Kennedy Early Childhood Elementary, a birth to kindergarten school.  When she started, there were climate and culture initiatives, like positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), but they weren’t being utilized correctly or effectively.  “Kids weren’t able to express themselves. PBIS was missing important components our kids needed,” says Principal Thomas.

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During the 2016-2017 school year, kindergarten teachers at Kennedy were provided the opportunity to access Move This World’s social emotional learning program.  The online platform provided teachers with short developmentally aligned, SEL videos for easy, ritualized practice, as well as personalized coaching and resources.

Principal Thomas said there was no buy-in plan for her team.  “Nobody was ‘forced’ to try it [Move This World]. Teachers led this initiative completely. What started as a suggestion, led to a teacher coming to me asking if they could use it after lunch because it was helping refocus and calm their students for the afternoon.  Of course, I said, ‘yes!” The buy-in was natural; Move This World was working very well in one classroom, so other teachers saw it worked and started using it too.”

Kennedy students immediately connected to the kinesthetic and visual parts of the Move This World videos.  Staff connected with the ease of use and immediate responses they saw in their students' behavior. Both students and staff enjoy doing Move This World together daily and benefit from having the time to express themselves.  

“Before Move This World, I didn’t realize the importance and need for kids expressing themselves emotionally at such an early age,” says Principal Thomas.  There have been positive results related to social awareness and relationship skills as well. “More students are interacting with one another and most are no longer afraid of speaking in front of a crowd or expressing themselves.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, kindergarten teachers at Kennedy were provided the opportunity to access Move This World’s social emotional learning program.  The online platform provided teachers with short developmentally aligned, SEL videos for easy, ritualized practice, as well as personalized coaching and resources.

Principal Thomas said there was no buy-in plan for her team.  “Nobody was ‘forced’ to try it [Move This World]. Teachers led this initiative completely. What started as a suggestion, led to a teacher coming to me asking if they could use it after lunch because it was helping refocus and calm their students for the afternoon.  Of course, I said, ‘yes!” The buy-in was natural; Move This World was working very well in one classroom, so other teachers saw it worked and started using it too.”

Kennedy students immediately connected to the kinesthetic and visual parts of the Move This World videos.  Staff connected with the ease of use and immediate responses they saw in their students' behavior. Both students and staff enjoy doing Move This World together daily and benefit from having the time to express themselves.  

“Before Move This World, I didn’t realize the importance and need for kids expressing themselves emotionally at such an early age,” says Principal Thomas.  There have been positive results related to social awareness and relationship skills as well. “More students are interacting with one another and most are no longer afraid of speaking in front of a crowd or expressing themselves.”

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Teacher happiness and retention is also on the rise at Kennedy. “We’re trying not to stress and sweat the small stuff this year.” There is a health and wellness committee focused on whole-school strategies. Teachers will often take walks during their planning time. Kennedy is even a “healthy-foods” school; they provide nutritious options and the kids are deterred from bringing unhealthy snacks. Many teachers try to follow suit with staying hydrated and eating healthy.

In addition, to Move This World and PBIS, staff have tools related to cooperative discipline, character education, student conferencing, and restorative circles.  When asked about one major impact the school community has seen as a result of consistent social emotional learning, Principal Thomas replied, “Scholars are taking more ownership of their learning and actions that go on throughout the day. If they do react negatively, they take ownership and want to talk about what happened and why. The consistency of Move This World has been great for both students and staff.”




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