SEL is an educational acronym getting a lot of use lately, and it’s an important one to know. It stands for Social-Emotional Learning. At Otsego, we believe that a student’s social-emotional success is just as important as their academic success. We have an entire Student Support Services team at Otsego composed of counselors, social workers, behavioral specialists and a psychologist along with other support
personnel. “The focus of our team is to help students navigate the social/emotional/behavioral challenges associated with their developmental ages,” says middle school social worker, Anna Starr, “The SSS team can help students with tangible needs such as clothing, food, and community resources; they can also help with everything from mental health needs to friendship issues.”
SEL is not new. It’s been a part of our education practices for years but the pandemic has brought the importance of it into the forefront. “The needs are greater. And we are adjusting for that,” says Otsego superintendent, Jeff Haase. “Just like we are working to fill the gaps in academics, we are working to
address the needs of social-emotional learning.”
A Multi-Tiered Approach
Otsego approaches this just as we approach academics - through a multi-tiered system.
- Tier 1 is universal, instruction for all students.
- Tier 2 is additional instruction, targeted for students with some risk factors.
- Tier 3 is intensive intervention for students at high risk.
Capturing Kids Hearts
At all levels across the district, students receive social-emotional support and learning. Capturing Kids’ Hearts is an SEL program; students grow in:
- Social Capacity
- Emotional Capacity
- Learning Capacity
Examples of CKH practices:
- Social contract - Students lead the creation of, and take ownership in, deciding the expected class behaviors.
- Timeout - Students learn when they see an adult make a T with their hands to join in to become leaders in good behavior.
- Door greeting - Students are greeted each day at the door as a quick eye-to-eye check in with the teacher.
- Good things - Students share good things during class to allow themselves and others to celebrate the positive points in their lives.
CKH helps students develop:
1.) Social Skills
2.) Personal Responsibility
4.) Relationship Management
5.) Decision-Making Skills
OPS has been nationally recognized for our success in this area with three of our five school buildings named National Showcase Schools for Capturing Kids’ Hearts. Strong relationships:
- Cultivate relational capacity
- Improve school culture
- Strengthen trust between teachers and students
- Build self-managing classrooms
- Create accountability
- Improve academic performance
SEL - An ongoing focus
Several other outreach practices/programs are in place across the district to help parents and students.
- Watch Dogs
- Be Nice
- STAND (Students Taking a New Direction)
- Classroom lessons
- Newsletter tips and information for parents
Within each of these programs are consistent, focused activities that build character, help kids make good choices, and promote leadership and citizenship skills.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 for social-emotional learning takes the lessons and activities to another level. Below are some examples:
- Ongoing teamwork among staff on specific student needs
- Jump Start, a morning movement/exercise session
- Social Groups as needed with counselor or social worker
- Student-Specific Plans to address needs
- Conflict Managers (Student Recess Helpers)
- Links (Peer-to-Peer, Student Mentor Group)
- Classroom-Specific Lessons
- One-on-One Sessions
- Level Two Classrooms (Our Special Ed Students)
- Level Three Classroom (Classroom for Students With Autism)
- Early Childhood Special Education Class (Pre-K)
- Student-Specific Plan via IEP
- Crisis Management
- Outside Agency Collaboration