The nation’s abrupt shift to remote learning in the wake of COVID-19 has left teachers, students, and parents scrambling to find balance in their daily lives. And while maintaining academic learning is important, it’s just as important to focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) skills to help students maintain their mental and emotional well-being.
SEL skills are among the top priorities at the St. Thomas School, a PreK-8 Seattle-area school that went virtual the first week of March. Head of School Dr. Kirk Wheeler champions the importance of SEL skills, community, and a sense of belonging to unite the school, both in person and when the school suddenly went virtual.
St. Thomas School already had a one-to-one K-8 Microsoft Surface laptop program in place, ensuring all students had a device when learning went remote. Teachers use Microsoft OneNote to tailor students’ learning experiences and push out readings, tests, worksheets, and videos directly to students. Middle and high school students also use the tool to submit homework. St. Thomas School uses Microsoft Sway in its early learning center to deliver links, videos, and updates to parents.
“I’m a big community culture person–it’s such a powerful human need,” Wheeler says. “One of my big concerns when we went remote was that we’d lose community and our sense of belonging. I didn’t want students, faculty, and parents just floating out there.”
The school’s teachers, specialists, and staff employ a number of strategies to keep developing students’ SEL skills and to continue cultivating a sense of belonging–even while students are learning from home.