Each year, Valley Stream District 30 staff members embrace the importance of social-emotional learning in a student’s school environment. Since the start of the 2020-2021 year, staff members have worked diligently with school psychologists to continue incorporating SEL into their classrooms, whether remote or in person. Now more than ever, students need to feel supported not only academically but emotionally and mentally. Teachers have found effective ways to achieve this such as implementing Emotional Intelligence Charters, a tool of the RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions) Approach.
Charters are found in classrooms across Clear Stream Avenue, Forest Road and Shaw Avenue elementary schools to make students feel safe, supported and welcomed. It is a collaborative vision board or document developed by students and their teachers for how they want to feel in their classrooms. The charter contains agreed-upon behavior norms for how students will learn and positively interact in the classroom. It also focuses on student feelings, what can be done to foster these feelings and includes ways that students can manage and prevent conflict and uncomfortable feelings within the classroom.
“The Emotional Intelligence Charter cultivates an emotionally healthy classroom environment where students feel safe, welcomed and supported,” said Jennifer Orellana, Clear Stream Avenue psychologist. “When this happens, students are more likely to be engaged in learning and less disruptive within the classroom.”
District 30 teachers have been utilizing their charters regularly within their classes and amending it as needed to reflect the changing needs of their classroom. For those students who are following a hybrid model this year, their charters are on full display in the classroom and include signatures from students. Remote classes have created their own virtual charters to follow using platforms such as Google Docs.
“The charter is a great way to bring the idea that this is more than just classroom rules to follow,” said Heather Graham, a third grade remote teacher from Forest Road School. “The students have ownership over it because it is made up of their ideas and is rooted in how they want to feel as a student. Also, it acknowledges that while we can’t always have positive feelings, there are tools in our toolbox to help us regulate our emotions when negative ones arise.”
These Emotional Intelligence Charters are just one of many ways the district is fostering social-emotional growth. With the guidance of the school psychologists, teachers will continue their SEL endeavors during the school year with the goal of supporting and educating the whole student.