This article is the 2nd in a series of pieces on the very important wellness framework being developed at La Jolla Country Day School (CA). The first article was entitled, “Embracing Uncertainty & Preparing Our Students: A Case Study,” by Colleen O’Boyle, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs.
In December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a rare advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health due to alarming increases in specific mental health challenges amongst children and adolescents. Those of us that have been in the mental health field for some time have seen this surge coming. We have been tracking a steady and concerning increase in childhood mental illness since 2007 and even earlier. What no one could anticipate was COVID-19. The collective trauma we have all experienced has led to irrevocable consequences that are impacting our youth in a multitude of ways. Schools across the country are confronting a wave of student misbehavior since we have returned from the remote learning models of last year. The pandemic has exacerbated multi-year challenges and a lack of mental health resources rapidly and alarmingly.
Despite the many challenges we face, we have some good news. Research has been consistent in its support for social and emotional learning and SEL’s impact on student outcomes both inside and outside of the classroom. SEL provides schools with a universal intervention that produces a variety of positive outcomes and can and will support the elevated concerns we are facing. The unfortunate juxtaposition is that the term social and emotional learning is more unpopular than ever before (Fordham Institute). This leads us to the question—if we know what can provide support for students, families, and faculty during these trying times, how can we package it so that it will be best received? Terms like “life skills” have emerged as a solution to this public relations issue. Each community has its shared values that should be taken into account when naming its initiatives, but it is clear that when we focus on the specific SEL-related skills, there is broad support. When and how we propose and implement new programming can make all the difference in its success.
With that in mind, our team at La Jolla Country Day School, in partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital (San Diego), has been working to develop a wellness framework anchored in the school-family-community partnership model.…