NORFOLK — Superintendent Dr. Ingrid Allardi and Director of Curriculum Victoria Saldana are pleased to announce that amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Norfolk Public Schools has increased its emphasis on social-emotional learning and student well-being within the district’s curriculum and programs.
The district, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, had numerous social-emotional learning (SEL) initiatives built into its curriculum. The district has a comprehensive SEL curriculum at all grade levels focused on teaching students important skills in areas of self-awareness, social awareness, relationships and decision making. Since the start of the pandemic, the district has added numerous resources for students and their families including information about mental health, food assistance and mindfulness.
“Our district remains committed to prioritizing our student’s health and well-being through our social-emotional learning initiatives and techniques,” Superintendent Allardi said. “We recognize that throughout the ongoing pandemic we must continue to be proactive not reactive in our response to ours students’ emotional and mental health needs. To ensure that all of our students’ needs are being met, we have prioritized social emotional health in all aspects of teaching and learning. As a result, students have a wide variety of resources inside and outside the classroom available to them.”
As part of the district’s SEL curriculum (Open Circle at H. Olive Day and Second Step at Freeman Kennedy), the district enhanced the morning meetings by implementing a daily wellness check-in for all students. The adjustment counselors also enhanced the current SEL curriculum with lessons that focus on community building, mindfulness, and managing challenges students deal with every day.
The morning check-ins consist of all students completing a two question survey that asks them about how they are feeling on that particular day. The survey is based on a linear scale that is adapted for the different age groups within the district.
The purpose of the check-in is to help students reflect on their well being and to give classroom teachers another tool to connect with students, especially during the remote learning days. All results are privately shared with teachers, adjustment counselors and mental health staff. If a student continuously reports negative feelings, adjustment counselors reach out to the parents, teachers and students to discuss what further supports may be needed.
Following the morning check-in survey, students and their teachers participate in morning meetings. During the morning meetings, teachers hold SEL lessons that focus on a monthly theme that is selected by the district’s adjustment counselors. During these lessons students have the opportunity to share whatever they would like, while teachers have the opportunity to teach an array of social-emotional learning skills.
Newsletters are sent home on a regular basis that cover the topics discussed throughout the weeks and share strategies for how families can continue the conversations.
In the hybrid learning model, students log into the SEL sessions from home on remote learning days. This allows the district to build relationships between cohorts and for teachers to connect with the entire class at once. On Wednesdays, when all students are participating in remote learning, the lesson is held virtually for all. Students who are participating in remote only classrooms start each day with a virtual SEL lesson.
“With the shift in how our students are learning, we wanted to ensure that we addressed any emotional aspects that may arise due to the ongoing pandemic and the modified school year,” Director Saldana said. “As a result, we have ensured that every class has incorporated social-emotional learning lessons into their curriculum each day. These lessons allow our educators and staff the opportunity to check-in with their students to see how they are doing. In doing so, our educators have been able to build strong relationships with their entire class even when they aren’t meeting face-to-face everyday.”
Family resources for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can be found online here, and wellness and mental health resources can be found here. The district encourages all families to use these resources to their advantage.
Families in need of additional support, such as internet needs, school supplies, nutrition and social-emotional needs, are encouraged to contact their school principal or their student’s counselor.