The Need to Support Student Well-Being
In a flash, the pandemic disrupted the social and emotional well-being of many students.
While some students appreciated having agency over their learning pace in the spring, large scale surveys reveal the negative impact of virtual learning on student well-being. Many students also lost critical access to wraparound services provided by schools. These obstacles were especially difficult for lower-income families who are disproportionately likely to receive mental health services from schools.
The Opportunities to Integrate Well-Being Practices
Our work supporting urban school districts as they prepared for this school year demonstrated the importance of centering student well-being. Listening to different stakeholders highlighted the need for culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate, and trauma-informed strategies as schools bounce between different learning models.
While there are many areas to invest within, here are a few key priorities for schools:
- Focus on relationships: Students must feel seen by the adults in their lives. When students feel supported by adults, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and safety, which is crucial for fostering resilience and buffering against the adverse effects of trauma.
- Create school-wide systems that cultivate social-emotional competencies: A focus on social emotional learning practices offers opportunities to promote regulation and connection. For instance, schools can encourage students to exercise their agency by creating opportunities to serve their community, resist injustice and practice anti-racism.
- Build adult capacity and engage families in the process: Educators’ physical and emotional safety must be prioritized so they can effectively support students. Schools must also clearly and consistently listen and learn from families to ensure they are meeting the needs of every child (e.g., through listening tours, weekly check-ins).
Much of the work in this academic year requires a reinvention of the teaching and learning environment. Prioritizing well-being must remain the cornerstone from which these changes occur.
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