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Social and emotional learning program, for a better school life

By Jeehee Kim Nov. 8, 2021

Working with the San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), the school’s counselors developed the Social and Emotional Learning Program—a program that occurs during tutorials to teach students about mental health. These pilot sessions were conducted by the academic counselors—Shira Solomon, Lisa Castillo and Brenda Stone—during tutorial to maximize class time and minimize disruption. Each counselor chose two different tutorial classes to direct for the program. In order to improve the curriculum, the counselors focused on collecting data and determining which aspects of the program needed improvements before expanding it into a full scale project.

“The school and SJUSD decided to implement the program because mindset education has always been an important topic that should be taught in schools. Since the COVID-19 pandemic isolated students at home, we knew that there would be a greater need for social and emotional learning in school this year,” Assistant Principal Sara Mingione said.

She added that mental health lessons need to become a part of students’ school day to encourage them to attend school and participate in class. Additionally, from the pilot version of the Social and Emotional Learning Program, the district aimed to determine what method of mental health education would work best for the students, how to encourage more students to participate and how it could be improved to implement schoolwide.

The first semester Social and Emotional Learning Program introduced the Seven Mindset curriculum: everything is possible, passion first, we are connected, 100% accountable, attitude of gratitude, live to give and the time is now. The purpose of this curriculum was to encourage students to be optimistic, hopeful, knowledgeable and driven. These lessons were presented to the students of Jennifer Touchton and Robin Jankowski, English Department. Touchton’s first period freshmen class, Jankowski’s first period AP Language class and second period freshmen class were given the opportunity to engage in the Social and Emotional Learning Program during every Tuesday tutorial.

There were various benefits to the Social and Emotional Learning Program: many students enjoyed writing down the things that made them feel grateful in alphabetical order because it provided them with the opportunity to share their thoughts to the whole class. Moreover, to increase participation, candy was awarded to students who were consistently engaged in discussions.

“Since candy was given to students who presented their opinions, it made me more focused on the discussion, creating an effective learning atmosphere. I liked the activities we did since I got to introduce myself and know more about my classmates,” Freshman Maxwell Ciciarelli said.

However, despite the benefits, there were also several weaknesses. Since most students use their tutorial to study and ask questions to their teachers, many students highlighted that the Social and Emotional Learning Program being mandatory was a disadvantage. Due to the program, many students were unable to effectively utilize their tutorials to enhance their academic performance.

“The program was once a week, so it was taking away time that I could have been asking teachers questions. There were many instances where I had an exam in the next period, prohibiting me from fully focusing on the activities of the Social and Emotional Learning Program,” Junior Kimaya Saijpal said.

Even though the school has only recently opened its pilot Social and Emotional Learning Program for a small scale of classes, once the Second Step curriculum is finalized during the second semester, the district will extend the program to all students. In the future, the school is looking forward to providing students with more mental health resources and strengthening its curriculum.


About the Contributors

Jeehee Kim

Staff Writer

Jeehee Kim is a junior at Leland High School and is currently on the Media Team. She likes to listen to music, watch movies and K-Dramas, and talk to her friends and family.

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