By Allison Clewett     10/23/2020

The unprecedented nature of 2020 has made the social and emotional health of students as they return to school of the utmost importance.  To help teachers and families support each other in their efforts to provide guidance in this area, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Yorba Linda has launched S.E.E.Ds (Social Emotional Education & Development) for Growth.  Through twice-monthly communications shared by school counselor, Kelli McCarty, L.M.F.T., the program focuses on topics pertinent to the overall wellness of children.   

“It is next-to-impossible to expect teaching and learning to occur in a crisis without attending to our emotions,” explains McCarty.  “The goal with S.E.E.Ds is to provide our community with the tools necessary to navigate the uncharted waters of this new reality.  We want them to learn and grow from their experiences, to view the challenges as opportunities, and understand that their feelings are all valid.” 

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), defines SEL as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” CASEL’s framework identifies five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

S.E.E.Ds tackles these concepts with topics such as, “Seeing the Bright Side, Helping Children Manage Emotions, How to Keep Kids Motivated, and Tools for Coping with Stress.”  All of which are important subjects for growing children that are easily lost in the avalanche of health and safety regulation and the orchestration of virtual instruction that schools face today. 

“The current state of affairs with the upheaval of schedules, changes to the manner in which instruction is delivered, and distance between students presents a daunting reality, no question,” shares St. Francis Principal Jeannette Lambert, L.M.F.T.  “But we understand that the worst thing we can do for our teachers, students, and families is to get so caught up with academics and logistics that we de-prioritize SEL.”  

Research supports Lambert’s assertion, SEL is key to successful student performance, especially in preschool and elementary school.  As more attention is paid to “educating the whole child” at St. Francis, SEL practices have been embedded in every classroom.  St. Francis teachers and parents are aware that these skills play a critical role in determining how well-prepared children will be to meet the demands of school and of life beyond school.  Ultimately, the S.E.E.Ds for Growth program cultivates a healthy mindset for the entire St. Francis community!