School programming aims to address students' social, emotional needs

Most students who returned to in-person instruction in Glynn County Schools last week had been away from a classroom setting for more than 150 days.

In that time, as the pandemic altered everyday realities and created numerous new challenges, children suffered from the anxieties and stresses their families faced. Many also lacked some of the basic care they need.

To help students readjust to life at school, Glynn County Schools has implemented a program of “BOOST” activities that aim to address their social and emotional needs.

“Realizing that our students have not been in formalized instruction since March 2020 and the fact that we don’t know all of the challenges that our children have faced during this time, our district is committed to prioritizing compassion over compliance this year,” said Senetra Haywood, director of student services.

Schools are providing “BOOST” activities for students that are recommended to last 30 minutes once a week. Lessons can be about mindfulness, team building, kindness, sharing, helping others, managing stress and anxiety and more.

“Teachers and support staff have been provided with resources so that they can not only prepare for students who are (attending) in person, but also for students who may be virtually participating,” Haywood said. “Our school counselors and school social workers will be vital to this initiative as well. We believe that by providing this time, our students will not only get acclimated back to formalized instruction, but also that their social and emotional needs will be met, yielding greater success for all.”

The purpose of this approach is to bring the human element back to teaching and to let students know that teachers and school staff have also experienced challenging and stressful times.

Teachers and staff have to meet students where they are and allow them the time and space needed to process what’s happening around them.

“We must equip them with the tools they need to be able to show empathy and compassion in times like these,” she said.

It’s critical that students are ready to learn again. Their social and emotional well-being plays an important role in their ability to be successful in the classroom, Haywood said.

“We are working with teachers and staff to emphasize caring relationships with students and opportunities for students to connect with each other, both in-person and online,” she said.