I’m still processing all the changes we’ve made this year through our redesign efforts. It’s been a chaotic, exhausting, exhilarating, whirlwind of a year. My hope is to spend then next few weeks sharing a some of the changes we’ve made and how they are impacting student success.
This week I’d love to share about our start up time. One of our primary focuses for the redesign is on Social Emotional Learning. There are a plethora of things we are doing to work on this with our students, but the one thing that we kept coming back to last fall when we were brainstorming ways to help our students was the start of the day. The beginning of the day sets the tone for everything else that happens that day and many of our students struggle to shake a rough start.
When I was a kid I hated getting up in the morning (I still do). I would frantically try to get ready at the last possible moment without being late. I’d be stressed about the homework that I probably didn’t do the night before (I wasn’t the most conscientious student), worried about if I had the right clothes, the right hair, the right amount of Axe body spray, and worried about a hundred little things that could go wrong.
Times may have changed from when we were kids, but some things never change. Kids start their day rushed and stressed. At Santa Fe Trail we wanted to make the transition from the morning commute to the start of class as smooth as possible. We changed up our schedule to allow a 15-20 minute soft start to the day. The students begin in a homeroom type class with the focus being SEL lessons, goal setting and mentorship.
The hope is that students will have a minute to take a breath before their academics kick in. Teachers get a few minutes to build relationships with this smaller group of students. We currently use Second Step curriculum for some SEL lessons and offer additional SEL lessons as needed.
As an added bonus, students who were chronically late to school are now missing a short SEL lesson instead of academics.
We’re still assessing the impacts of the start up time, and we’re still finding the balance between a soft start vs. having too many structured SEL lessons. But overall the kids seem to have a much better day as a result of this time.