Return to Headlines

Social and Emotional Learning at Union Cross Elementary

For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.

Amanda 2 By Angela Cowell and Shasta Lowther

School Social Workers

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

OCTOBER 4, 2019 – At Union Cross Elementary, parents and other family members and members of the staff have been learning more about social and emotional learning.

At the Title 1 meeting at Union Cross on Sept. 24, parents and other family members worked with members of the Student Services Team to learn more about Social, Emotional, Academic Learning (SEAL). On Oct. 2, staff members learned more about SEAL.

First a bit about the meeting with families:

“Our SEAL presentation at the Title 1 meeting focused on how to support parents develop these skills with their children,” said School Social Worker Angela Cowell.

“This is the third year we've been working on increasing the SEAL practices at Union Cross. Over the last three years, our teachers have done a great job incorporating these skills in the classroom alongside of their academic lessons, which emphasize many areas including positive transitions, problem solving skills, and promoting pro social behaviors. Our student services team (School Psychologist, School Counselors, School Social Workers (2), and Parent Involvement Coordinator) promotes these practices with the students through classroom guidance lessons, SEAL-focused school-wide lessons, targeted student groups, and staff development training.” 

Union 3 “It's really rewarding to see the staff's efforts to enhance social emotional growth pay off when we see situations like a student who once screamed out in frustration who is now asking for paper to draw how he's feeling to help him manage his emotions in a healthier way. We are looking forward to partnering more with parents to support these practices through a home and school connection.”

Participants of the Title 1 meeting were asked to complete four brief questions on online link so that the school staff could use the feedback to develop further SEAL-focused workshops for parents this school year.

The results were: 83 percent said they strongly agreed they have a basic understanding of SEAL, 16 percent were neutral. 83 percent said they strongly agreed that SEAL can have a positive impact on their child now and in the future, 16 were neutral. 83 percent strongly agreed they are likely to try at least one activity they learned with their child and 16 percent were neutral. 67 percent said they are likely to attend additional presentations focused on SEAL and 33.3 percent were neutral. 

“After the presentation a parent who works in the human-resources field stopped us and thanked us for helping children develop their social emotional skills,” Cowell said. “She stated she often works with adults who are struggling to manage their social/ emotional behaviors and knows it will help adults become more productive members of society if they learn these skills as children.”

Jaymie Almaguer, the Parent Involvement Coordinator, received feedback from parents after the SEAL presentation that, “parents are open to receiving more resources and tools about the academic and social emotional growth of their children as a result of the training” and that they see the long term benefits of helping their children learn these skills. 

Union Cross 1 “In addition to presenting information on an overview of SEAL topics, we provided examples of how parents can develop some of these skills with their child, such as breathing/ relaxation activities to reduce stress, a One Kind Word activity to promote kindness and social connection, problem solving strategies used to turn mistakes into new possibilities which promotes a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset,” Cowell said. 

A list of helpful books and website resources were provided to encourage further understanding. 

A table that had examples of books, activities, and hands-on experiences such as ringing the meditation bell and practicing breathing with the snow globes was provided for parents and students to experience hands-on exploration. 

Shasta Lowther, a Union Cross School Social Worker, said, “I am very excited about the partnership between parents and educators at Union Cross. Research shows that when educators and parents share with one another about how students are operating using social emotional skills across all settings – home, school, in the community, etc. – they can work together to have a bigger impact on the outcomes of children.”

Lowther also participated in the staff meeting on Oct. 2. 

“The focus was on changing adult behavior and mindset in schools,” Lowther said. 

Lowther opened the meeting with presentation sharing the success story of an elementary school in North Carolina that implemented SEAL over the past few years.

“This provided real proof that SEAL works,” Lowther said.

Union 8 The pilot school discussed demonstrated improvements in many various areas, including:

  1. Significant decreased number of minor incidents occurring at school one year after SEAL was first implemented
  2. Significant decreased number of students accumulating moderate to high numbers of​ unexcused absences from school, one year to the next
  3. Significant improvements in academic growth as evidenced by higher EVAAS scores, comparing one year to the next
  4. Significant increased reports by students who feel that teachers and school staff are trusted adults in their lives
  5. Significant increased reports by students who feel that they are valued as a student at their school

Staff members were encouraged to review the WS/FCS website SEAL page that outlines district SEAL vision, theory of change, and goals.

“To obtain goals successfully, we must be open to shifting our mindsets,” Lowther said. “Our vision will be made possible if we believe in all children.”

Schools that have focused on SEAL report a number of shifts in mindset and beliefs associated with a focus on SEAL:Union 99

  • Mindset Shift #1 - "We can't expect more from our students than we are willing to give."
  • Mindset Shift #2 - "This shift requires teachers to stop placing the blame on students, families and society. We're past the days of "that kid needs to comply because I said so," and we're in a stage of "I need to work harder to engage that kid."
  • Mindset Shift #3 - "The first intervention is a relationship, even with students who are difficult to build a relationship with."
  • Mindset Shift #4 - "Kids will do well IF they can. If they aren't doing well, something is getting in the way.

We believe:

  • "That badness is not a normal condition but is the result of misdirected energy and unmet needs."
  • "That every child will be good if given an opportunity in an environment of love and activity."
  • "That problems are opportunities."
  • "That everyone has a responsibility to help and no one has the right to hurt."

Next, Amanda Walker and Angela Fernandez led a hands-on SEAL "escape room" activity. Staff members were divided into five groups and given a "confidential" folder with instructions. Each group broke out into separate classrooms, where, as a team, they sought clues, and completed puzzle activities. Finally, each staff member was instructed to reflect back on the strengths of a great educator and think of one word to describe them.

Finally, staff members who had not yet completed the Panorama Family Survey were asked to complete it at that time.