This year, Albany Leadership introduced a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum to students. Every two weeks during the advisory period (7:50- 8:41 am), students began the day with classroom discussions, activities, and workshops directly related to the five social and emotional competencies. SEL education is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set, and achieve positive goals, feel, and show empathy for others, establish, and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
SEL education at Albany Leadership aims to cultivate a caring, participatory, and equitable learning environment through evidence-based practices that actively involve all students in their social, emotional, and academic growth. Albany Leadership School Social Worker and the SEL team worked together to develop the “Making Our Futures CLEAR” Program which was intended to be an interactive program of workshops and activities that could be infused into every part of the students’ school routine. With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEL team quickly adapted interactive activities into digital discussion boards and conversations through meeting platforms.
The Albany Leadership SEL Program played a crucial role in helping students and teachers strengthen their communication and trust in each other through the challenges of this year. Activities like designing your own workspace, helped remote students understand the impact of the physical environment on their emotional health and academic progress. An activity that is unique to the pandemic as teachers historically designed positive workspaces within the classroom. The SEL program also unified the school in the wake of tragedy, giving space for students and teachers to share feelings and grieve in a safe and meaningful way.
School Social Worker, Tara Smades worked to implement the program this year saying,
“We noticed and recognized the need within the student population for skills-based learning in areas of communication, team building, and other aspects of the SEL curriculum. These skills are equally as valuable as the common core curriculum and can help foster better academic learning. Witnessing the reflection of learning through the projects over the academic year has been rewarding because it shows that our school community is getting stronger and more supportive of each other. Teachers and students really came together this year, especially against the challenges of the pandemic, to have authentic and honest conversations. These types of conversations were not separate from the classroom, they already existed there, we now have a name for it and a unified way to support teachers to continue these conversations across the academic year.”