SEL priority: Students must feel safe before they can learn

Over the summer, educators practiced techniques to help students cope with stress and trauma.
By: | July 31, 2020
In its revised school safety guidelines, the CDC details ctions administrators can take based on the rate of community COVID transmission. (GettyImages/ izusek)In its revised school safety guidelines, the CDC details actions administrators can take based on the rate of community COVID transmission. (GettyImages/ izusek)

Administrators in Naperville School District 203, where SEL has been entrenched in the curriculum for years, have focused first on professional development for teachers in the post-COVID world.

The goal was to help the educators manage their own stress and recognize the trauma they had experienced during the pandemic, says Christine Igoe, assistant superintendent of student services in the suburban Chicago system.

Educators practiced techniques to help students cope with stress and trauma.

Making students feel safe and comfortable as they meet their new teachers has been the district’s priority while reopening classrooms, Igoe says.


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That includes holding more intentional morning class meetings where students and teachers can discuss challenges they’re facing, how they’re feeling and other emotions, Igoe says.

Building these types of routines while help students become more adept at using technology and will also smooth the transition should any of the district’s schools have to return to online learning full-time.

“We’ve got to go slow to go fast,” Igoe says. “I could teach algebra on the first day but if I don’t have kids who feel safe, I’ll have to reteach it in two or three weeks when they’re ready to learn it.”

Read the other stories in our series on SEL as school reopen during COVID:

  1. COVID-era SEL means preparing students for the unknown
  2. 10 ways Austin ISD reinforces SEL during COVID 
  3. Student voice becomes a key component of SEL
  4. 9 ways to boost social-emotional learning post-COVID
  5. 5 reasons why SEL is essential in the COVID era