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Superintendent's News

Posted: April 16, 2021

Taking Care of the Social and Emotional

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder writes about social and emotional learning for both students and staff.

Straighten your spine. Soften your eyebrows. Unclench your jaw. Inhale. Exhale.

The Albuquerque Public Schools Director of School Climate starts meetings and trainings with these simple commands. Employees sometimes get tired of Layla Dehaiman telling them to take a breath, she admits. But taking a moment to regulate our words and actions is important when we are stressed and fatigued. 

There certainly has been plenty to stress about, much to exhaust us, during this school year, notably in the past few weeks when half our students returned to campus and the other half continued to learn at home. How are we supposed to stay calm and carry on when we have so much to worry about, from technology, masks, and social distancing to our health and the health and wellbeing of our students, coworkers and families.

It’s no wonder we sometimes forget to exhale.

Just as we are feeling overwhelmed, overextended, and overwrought, so too are our students, especially those who have a history of trauma and are vulnerable to change. According to the APS Social Emotional Learning Website (yes, we have such a site and it is a terrific resource!): “Any type of stress that adults may be experiencing during this time of uncertainty will probably be mirrored in children.”

That’s why it’s important that we take care of ourselves. The kids are watching. They are listening. We are modeling reactions and behaviors, not only in the classroom but in our hallways, offices and parking lots, on our courts and fields, in-person and online.

It makes sense that APS and school districts across the nation have put so much emphasis during these difficult times on social and emotional learning. SEL is defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Note the word “adults” in the definition. SEL is more than just a program or lesson. It is about how teaching and learning happens, as well as what you teach and where you learn. I encourage all employees to be lifelong learners and embed SEL practices into their daily routines. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Nurture a culture of gratitude with acts of kindness
  • Start each meeting with a “check-in” to understand how your team is doing
  • Get to know your colleagues and staff better
  • End each day by checking in with coworkers. 

Don’t take it from me. APS has put together an amazing Social Emotional Learning Team to train and support SEL in our schools and workplaces. I am including a list of resources they've created, including a YouTube video in both English and Spanish that explains social and emotional learning to parents. I encourage you to take a look. And to straighten your spine, soften your eyebrows, unclench your jaw, and breathe.