This is a guest post by Alison Seanor, a parent of a first grade student at Elysian Charter School in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Every morning I log into a Zoom and see dozens of smiling, six-year old faces beaming back at me.
My son isn’t one of them. He’s the one hiding under the coffee table at my feet.
Transitioning to remote learning has not been easy for my son, Nicholas. My normally calm and “good” kid is now defiant, non-compliant over any little task. He cries if I don’t toast his Eggo waffle correctly. He used to love school, and was eager to see his teachers and his friends. Now, he “hates” school and “hates” school work and he pretty much “hates” me most of the time. In short, he’s a mess.
The social and emotional health of our kids is taking a backseat (fairly, in my view) to the immediate health crisis of the pandemic. But the mental health effects of the virus will linger just as long, if not longer. Parents who can rely on their children’s school to be a true partner in managing our children’s emotional needs over the coming months are truly the lucky ones.
I am fortunate to count myself in their number. Nicholas’s school – Elysian Charter School in Hoboken, New Jersey – has been a godsend.
I chose Elysian for Nicholas when he started school in Kindergarten. I liked the small community feel, the progressive environment, and the focus on holistic development, not just academic success.
Elysian stepped up quickly to provide the academic and technology support we needed when schools suddenly closed. The school provided us with a Chromebook within a day of school closing. Nicholas’s teacher has been wonderful, moving ahead with real instruction (not just the busywork I’ve seen other parents complain about) and providing parents with lots of resources to augment the learning happening in the virtual classroom.
Just as importantly, our school has been a partner for me as Nicholas has struggled to process what’s happening in the world around him. When I shared that he was having a hard time, they seemed to understand immediately. They set up twice weekly sessions for him with the counselor there, all of his teachers know the problem and have modified assignments to help.
I know that I’m one of the lucky ones, and I’m coming from a place of relative privilege (though as a working single mom, I’m certainly not living a life of luxury, either). I was able to choose a public school that emphasizes social and emotional learning (SEL), even during a pandemic. My hope, and my ask of school leaders across the country, is to make this a priority for children across the country.
According to Christina Cipriano, Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI) “The worst thing we can do for our teachers, students, and families is de-prioritize SEL during the pandemic. It is next-to-impossible to expect teaching and learning to occur in a crisis without attending to our emotions.”
She’s right. This pandemic is also a mental health trauma, and our kids need to be supported as they navigate through this time alongside us. I’m grateful my son has found a school where this is a priority, and I urge others to step up when it comes to social and emotional support. It’s made all the difference for my son.