Research consistently demonstrates that implementing a robust social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum leads to significant improvements in safety and well-being within schools. According to a report published in the Journal of Cost-Benefit Analysis, for every $1 invested in SEL, there is an astonishing $11 return on investment. Michigan schools now have the opportunity to access Navigate360‘s SEL curriculum through a partnership with Michigan Virtual, as part of the “Michigan Cares” initiative. When schools embrace and champion this initiative, it yields powerful outcomes, enabling students to establish strong foundations that will benefit them in their future endeavors. In the following article, see how yet another school district has experienced the positive impact of SEL.
This article originally appeared in Greenville Daily News on September 16, 2023. See the original story here.
Take it from the kids SEL isn’t what you think it is
Michael Ostrander, Assistant Superintendent and High School Principal of Belding Area Schools in Belding, Michigan.
With students back in their classrooms starting another new year, we’re reminded that they’re facing many of the same issues students have been plagued with for generations: balancing study habits and socializing, relationships with friends and family, homework and after-school activities and jobs.
But for students in a post-COVID world, there’s also a wider variety of mental health challenges, the ever-evolving social media landscape, new learning models, school safety needs, and much more.
As educators and school administrators, we have a responsibility to adapt to the changing landscape to best support the families we serve. COVID has changed students and classrooms — overall, schools are facing more behavioral problems and students struggle to fix bad behavior choices.
Yet, within Belding Area Schools these trends are going the opposite way. We have seen a significant improvement in behavioral issues and our rates of repeat offenses are continually declining. This can be directly linked to Michigan Cares, a curriculum used district-wide that we implemented in 2019.
Michigan Cares is a tool used by schools and teachers to help students understand the cause and effect of their behaviors and how to do better. Operating on the premise that students should be supported and not simply suspended, kids are educated on their behaviors, and given an opportunity to learn rather than simply being removed from the educational environment. Students are given explanations as to why what they did was wrong and how they can handle challenging situations better in the future.
While we’ve found that students aren’t always mentally prepared to learn a lesson, the simple act of giving them the space to take the time they need to process the situation and learn from it has been transformational. Our students have shared with us that they believe — and truly feel — that Belding pays attention to their mental health, unlike their peers in other schools. They know that skills they are learning through Michigan Cares are building a foundation that will help them well into their future. And the funny thing is, these are supports any school in Michigan can access for free through Michigan Virtual.
Parents, educators and school administrators have been concerned about implementing programs that support students’ social and emotional needs for far too long. Fears that social emotional learning (SEL) is going to turn our children toward a political agenda are unfounded. In its most simplistic form, SEL is space given to a person to learn about themselves and how best to navigate the challenges they face in the world around them. It’s a supportive and collaborative environment that doesn’t ostracize a student for a bad day or poor decision, but lifts them up and helps them to be stronger.
Belding Area Schools is also the only school in the state that requires students to take a course in mental health to graduate. We believe that mental health, like exercise, CPR or any other critical health safety lesson, is learned. We get out what we put in, and our students feel that in our classrooms and beyond. Michigan Cares helps our parents spark discussions at home and build a more cohesive and well-rounded learning environment throughout our students’ lives.
We’ve been investing in our students’ behavioral and mental health needs since 2019. If you don’t want to take it from us, listen to our youth. Social emotional learning, like what’s offered to schools for free through Michigan Cares statewide, is helping to build skills that our students want today so that they have a stable foundation for tomorrow. They are healthier, happier and more confident members of society because we are providing them the resources they need to succeed.
Investing in social-emotional learning is not just an educational choice; it’s an investment in our collective well-being and the brighter world our youth are working to build.
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