Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Frandsen is a leader in local efforts to make schools more aware of students who are dealing with excessive stress or trauma and to give them the tools to respond. “Teachers don’t have to be therapists, they just need to listen,” she says. “Having a relationship with a caring adult can make a world of difference for a student.”
In education lingo, the process of teaching students the life skills they need to manage their emotions and relationships is called Social Emotional Learning or SEL. It’s being embraced because of its many benefits from increased academic achievement to reduced bullying to improved self-esteem.
To help bring more happiness to our students, some districts are building SEL into their curriculum. One technique that allows students to be heard is a talking circle in which students take turns sharing and listening. In addition, teachers are learning to give students strategies to deal with their stress. For example, students who have anxiety over their grades or college prospects can benefit from a change of mindset. “Students think that succeeding causes happiness, but the research clearly shows that happiness causes success,” Frandsen says.
Many schools are also rethinking their approach to discipline, with a heightened focus on accountability and conflict resolution rather than punishment. Known as Restorative Justice, it empowers students to resolve conflicts with each other. It’s been shown to reduce suspensions and build school environments where students feel happier and safer.
The Ventura County Office of Education provides a variety of workshops and training to help schools better address student mental health issues. Our monthly Social and Emotional Learning Community of Practice meetings in Camarillo are free and open to everyone, including counselors, teachers and parents. If you’d like to attend, contact Claudia Frandsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.