Students Learn Social-Emotional Skills Though ‘Dr. Weeks in Action’
Published on 11/3/21
District News Dr Weeks Elementary School
Throughout the Syracuse City School District, social emotional learning has been a priority this year: helping support students as they readjust to the routine of being back in school in person, and all the challenges that come with it.
Students at Dr. Weeks have been learning these skills hands-on in their morning meeting, thanks to a schoolwide initiative called Dr. Weeks in Action.
Started by teachers Kelcey Myers, Heidi Reichart, and Katie Carroll, the initiative is modeled after the Second Step and Positivity Project programs.
“Dr. Weeks in Action is about turning ourselves into active participants in the school culture and climate and promoting a positive and welcoming environment for all students,” Ms. Myers explained. “Our thought is that teaching SEL is of course wonderful, but SEL growth comes from putting those thoughts into action through taking care of ourselves, others around us and our world. We want to see our students taking ownership of themselves, their thoughts and actions and we believe that #DrWeeksInAction will be a strong guidance to help us achieve that!”
Each classroom in the school has a #DrWeeksinAction sign posted, and each week, students learn about various SEL components like managing their emotions, taking care of their mental health and more – all woven into character traits such as leadership and optimism. Students engage in ‘turn and talks,’ role playing, short video clips, read alouds, craft projects and more to demonstrate their learning.
One week, students learned about kindness; another week, they learned about kindness to themselves and managing their emotions; then they learned about kindness to others and being a good friend and ally. Each week, they focus closer on a different aspect of the same concept, helping students get a clearer understanding of what each idea means and how to put it into action in their own lives.
"Dr. Weeks In Action means that I am accountable for my actions and words,” fourth grader Honesty Woods said. “I want to make Dr. Weeks a better school that's safe and happy for my friends, my teachers and myself!"
"Dr. Weeks In Action means that we are all looking out for one another and that we are making everyone feel like they belong,” classmate Giselle Boatman added.
Students have been taught about various methods they can use to ‘cool down’ when they have big emotions. In one class, students practiced yoga. In another, they used mindful breathing while they listened to their bodies. Other classes used a calming strategy from GoNoodle called ‘melting,’ where they tense all their muscles as if they are experiencing a big emotion and then little by little ‘melt’ their bodies to a calm and safe posture.
“This is part of the larger picture of #DrWeeksInAction about listening to what our bodies are telling us, taking control of our own mental health, how to manage our emotions, how to be empathetic to others when we see them going through a difficult time and how we can be accountable for our own actions and words when we are not at a typical emotional baseline,” Ms. Myers shared.
Teachers say they are already seeing students making positive choices. One spoke of a student who has difficulty expressing himself in a safe manner, who has been utilizing his classroom’s cool down corner. One spoke of students who, in a moment of difficulty, will count their breathing or take a mindful moment. Another referenced self-talk bubbles that students made, noting that students refer to their bubbles when they need some positive encouragement.
“This has been amazing to see because it is the students who are owning their emotions and are working on navigating through difficult moments on their own accord,” Ms. Myers said. “Of course, we still have students who are working on all these skills, but we are hoping overall that this initiative will have a large impact on student emotional development throughout the year.”
We’re proud of these Dr. Weeks students – and staff – for working hard to develop their social-emotional learning skills to create a positive learning environment for everyone!