Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Supports
“If children could do well they would do well.”
Dr. Ross Green
What we believe:
At Pacific Ridge Elementary School we approach all decisions through an equity lens. Each child has a unique cultural background, developmental history, and level of resiliency that shape their ability to adapt, solve problems, and interpret non-verbal messages (like the tone of voice and body language.) Behavior is in fact a form of communication and is often replacing words to tell us they want/need something or to avoid something, like a task or a social situation that they don’t have the skills developed yet to take on.
It takes a village:
Several options support the staff at PRES to work with students lagging skills that are impacting a child’s ability to access their education. A team approach means every adult, from our transportation staff and foodservice professionals to the licensed teachers and paraprofessionals in the class and office respond to each child by building relationships, keeping a Growth Mindset rather than a fixed mindset, and teaching and reteaching expectations in every school setting (PBIS). Staff is aware of the adverse effects of trauma(s) on the young developing brain and to provide the best Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP) to behavior as possible. Resiliency, the ability to bounce back from difficult or challenging situations and experiences, is critical and is not innate. Developing and practicing resiliency skills such as managing strong emotions, self-control, time management, being realistic, flexible, and empathic are all priorities. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has a huge impact on unexpected behaviors from children, and our counselors and teachers integrate SEL lessons across the curriculum and school settings.
PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports):
Positive Behavior and Intervention Systems (PBIS) provide the framework for teaching respect, responsibility, and safety schoolwide. Students need to know what is expected, very specifically, in every setting, they access during the school day. Pre Teaching expectations and showing what success looks like on the bus, playground, hallways, cafeteria, office area, flex learning spaces, restrooms and more builds a foundation for the whole school to feel included in the school community. Positive feedback is also a critical part so that students build confidence and are able to negotiate more difficult situations as they occur, on their own. PBIS activities like Student of the Month assemblies based on student growth around defined positive character traits, weekly drawings from recognition tickets, and school-wide celebration days all offer external reinforcement that the students are demonstrating their behavioral skills.
For students lagging in behavior skills, staff provides written documentation to track who, where, when, and what the problem was, a possible motivation plus what happened just before, and if others were involved. Collecting data helps the PBIS Team decide when whole groups may need re-teaching, or if supervision structures need attention for example. It also helps pinpoint individuals who need support developing skills to keep their response safe and respectful the next time.
Restorative Justice is an emerging program at PRES. Responding to unwanted or unexpected behaviors is not one size fits all. Consequences and discipline center on educating students on repairing harm to individuals and also to others who may have been witnesses, including the stress or harm to those responding to intervene to escalated behaviors. Understanding the reasons for behaviors is complicated but critical. If there are sensory issues, past or current trauma, lagging skills, or systems that have negatively impacted a child’s development and trust for example, then those factors need to be recognized. If a student doesn’t know how to solve a problem then punishment doesn’t fix that. Children might need to see things from the other person’s point of view or pause before assuming and quickly lashing out. These are skills that require teaching, practice, and re-teaching.
Mission Control and Peace Corners
Everyone needs a break once in a while. Learning to recognize emotions and deal with them so they don’t run the show is hard. We teach a common language, The Zones of Regulation, to help students verbalize feelings and then we practice ways to transition from silly, sleepy, hurt or furious back to The Green Zone, and ready to learn. Taking a 5 minute break to let stuff go happens in the class Peace Corner, or Mission Control in our quiet school space. Having a tool (not a toy) to refocus can help redirect the mind to a ready to learn place or be ready to problem solve a poor choice. Being in a Red Zone is not the time to make a plan, or to discuss an effective consequence and repair harm. The calm spaces allow others to keep learning while someone else feels supported to manage their voice level or body language. These spaces are not used for large scale emotions or physical responses. Safety is always the priority. Young adults are given support and patience while learning to drive, with hours and hours of practice. Our youngest people deserve the same calm and respect learning to manage feelings. Another school wide piece to help students regulate is our Voice Level Chart, visible in every setting, including on the busses. Visual reminders are an effective way to help young minds succeed because expectations are easy to remind and they know everyone gets the same message.
Caring School Communities
PRES adopted a social and emotional learning curriculum in 2020 to supplement what our counselors already use. This program builds classroom community relationships through morning meetings that allow a proper greeting, a check in on emotional readiness to learn, and a weekly focus on character. A component to guide classroom meetings to discuss issues and resolve conflict so that learning can genuinely continue is also included. A school to family activity to help students use their new skill at home may be sent home Mondays to be returned Fridays.