Strategies to Make the Vision a Reality
Although teachers are in the best position to notice student behaviors and mental health issues, school nurses and counselors are best positioned to conduct initial screenings for mental health issues and make referrals to services in the community. School staff needs to develop a protocol to guide teachers as to when they should alert health and mental health professionals working with the school.
Schools should develop relationships with local organizations that provide mental health services. These organizations can advise the schools on developing screening protocols. Local mental health care professionals will become aware of the issues facing students and can seamlessly supporting students referred for their services.
SEL is most effective when taught in context. Literature can provide content for discussing inter-relational skills and appropriate social interactions. Social studies and history provide a context to discuss the character development of historical figures or problem-solving strategies that facilitate building community and social movements. Existing curriculum can provide opportunities to reflect on social and emotional skills.
Community service or service learning can offer opportunities for students to develop empathy, collaboration skills, and offer important contexts for SEL.
Teachers need time and resources to integrate SEL into existing curriculum. They may also need coaching on how to explicitly model social and emotional skills and to lead discussions about such skills.
All schools in Connecticut have school nurses and all high schools have counselors. Many districts have advisory programs, crisis plans, and school/community partnerships all designed to identify and support students who may need assistance.