SEL Lessons from A Promising Program in New York
  • By admin
  • October 15, 2019

By Grace Shelton



We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in improving outcomes for students. However, there are some places that need this skill development more than others. Communities with higher rates of violent crimes have a more difficult time implementing SEL instruction and curriculum when students are dealing with more trauma and grief to begin with. However, trauma response and grief counseling all fall under the umbrella of SEL. Recently, Chalkbeat highlighted a school in New York for changing the way trauma response and grief counseling is conducted. The entire school operates under a “grief sensitive approach”, incorporating these strategies in the day-to-day so students feel looked after and cared for both in the wake of tragedy and as members of the school community at large.

The school assembled a social-emotional support team that consisted of school guidance counselors, social workers, and various members of administration. This team works with the ongoing tasks of helping grieving students. As a result of their efforts, the school has become a model for emotionally responsive education amid crises and also on a daily basis.

The process begins with a survey at the start of the school year to identify any loss or potential for academic or social slumps. Students that may be at risk for this are then invited to participate in support groups and share their feelings, create memorial projects, write, and more. These emotional stressors, according to the school principal, can greatly impact their ability to be present in the classroom. Therefore, it’s really important that students have the space to share during the school day.

According to the article, only 7% of teachers say they’ve received any sort of grief training. This is particularly concerning considering that 93% of teachers say they’ve had at least one grieving student in their classroom. Because of this, grief-sensitivity models have expanded across the nation. An organization in New York City, the Positive Learning Collaborative, has provided this kind of training to 25 schools. Because of their efforts, they’ve seen an 82% decrease in suspensions in the first 6 schools to receive training. These results are promising. However, as more and more schools invest in social-emotional wellness, it remains clear that a number of schools still need more training and support. Highlighting best practices in schools, as Chalkbeat has done, is an important step towards providing schools with resources to help at-risk students.