Seattle, WA

SEL Brought Back by Popular Demand

Seattle’s John Stanford International School started using Second Step Social-Emotional Learning in the late 1990s, but when the counselor who taught it left, the lessons dwindled. And it started to show, says counselor Dan Turner: “Within a couple of years, we had a lot of comments from parents and teachers: ‘What happened to that program? Things are getting wild on the playground. What are the strategies we have for teaching students to cope?’ And so we brought it back.”

Turner now envisions social-emotional learning as a permanent part of the John Stanford curriculum: “It’s here to stay, regardless of whether there’s a change. Whether I come or go, it’s part of the program. The teachers know that the parents expect that we will be doing social-emotional learning, and they know that it’s Second Step.”

Some parents take a bit of convincing, because they see social-emotional learning as separate from academics. So Turner helps them understand the connection: “We can say to the parents who really highly value academic achievement that by spending some time every week teaching self-awareness and social awareness and skills to calm down, students will have the capability to be successful. Not only in the moment of learning will they be able to calm and focus, but they’ll be able to go out and build and maintain relationships with people as they move out of their childhood to be successful young people.”

Ultimately, Turner has found that a dual focus on academics and social-emotional learning has struck just the right balance for his students. “I think Second Step here has helped create a culture where students know what’s valued in the school. They know that reading, writing, math, and language is what school’s about. But they now also know that school is about their relationships with other people. And that their teacher is really interested in what’s happening inside them and their ability to feel empathy and compassion for other people. Teaching this program every week continues to remind them that that’s what the John Stanford International School is about: a safe place to be.” And safer kids make better learners.