After-school programs, teachers can partner with students’ SEL

(Image credit: Boys & Girls Clubs of America © 2020 Mark Skalny/Mark Skalny Photography)

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Social-emotional learning helps develop self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for success in school, work, and life in general. As a social-emotional learning expert, Senior Director of Counseling and Training for Fox Valley Boys and Girls Clubs in Wisconsin, and a mother of three, I have witnessed firsthand the positive results of implementing SEL with children of all ages. The practice supports the development of identity; identification and expression of emotions that promote regulation; and building healthy relationships to create support networks.

Boys and Girls Club after-school special education

When properly implemented, SEL can have a significant effect on a student’s academic achievement, lifestyle, and character, especially those with special needs. To reap the full benefits of SEL, it is important to teach it both in and out of school, as it can reduce educator stress in the classroom when used more widely. Working with educators and after-school staff throughout my career, I share my top three ideas for how educators and after-school programs can more seamlessly support each other.

1. Engage Parents and Guardians

We know that parents, guardians and caregivers are the experts on their family and their child(ren). Fostering mutual collaboration with parents/guardians creates a strong support network around the child. The more we know about a child – what inspires them, what motivates them, what brings them joy, what triggers them, what comforts them, what challenges them – the more we can show themselves as an active partner in their support system.

A very practical action that educators can take is to obtain a signed access permit that allows educators and school counselors to communicate with after-school program staff. This trick is particularly useful for special education teachers who seek to monitor the progress of their students.

Each congressional district has a Boys & Girls Club. Classroom teachers who communicate with after-school programs can learn how youth development progresses after school. Parents/guardians also have the authority to invite professionals from the after-school sector to participate in school-related meetings regarding their child’s education, such as conferences or individual education plans to further align goals and strategies between curricular and extracurricular programs.

2. Coordinate with after-school programs to ensure consistency

Special Education After School Boys & Girls Club
Boys and Girls Clubs of America © 2020 Mark Skalny/Mark Skalny Photography

Social-emotional learning is an essential human development that serves us in school, outside of school and throughout life. Teaching responsible decision-making contributes to motivation and skill building, helping students learn, lead, and lead engaged and healthy lives. However, all educators and caregivers in a child’s life working together to properly implement SEL promotes optimal development and outcomes.

Local clubs are empowered and encouraged to partner with local schools to create consistency and predictability of approaches, including but not limited to: CHAMP classroom management; Positive behavioral interventions and supports; development asset framework; the Regulation Zones cognitive-behavioral approach; and the Sources of Strength program. A consistent approach from the school day to after-school time can be so powerful.

3. Understand the homework help structure and approach of each after-school program

After-school programs often implement a constructive youth development model to generate positive outcomes centered on academic achievement, healthy living, and character and leadership skills. This model is made possible thanks to:

  • Youth-focused programming. This provides emotional safety, as well as a physical and structural environment that is developmentally appropriate and supportive of peer-to-peer and adult-youth interactions.
  • Positive youth development practices. After-school centers should offer a balance of programs, activities and experiences that meet the needs and interests of young people. They should have diverse group sizes and teaching approaches.
  • Safe and supportive environments. The center should have sustained, relationship-focused practices that recognize and enhance the strengths and skills of young people.

Recognizing and prioritizing a healthy sense of self, healthy relationship, and emotional regulation are integral to the model.

After-school programming is essential to create a strong and secure foundation for conducting a high-quality experience that includes building social-emotional and subject-specific skills outside of school. Teaching responsible decision-making is what contributes to motivation and building skills to learn, lead and live an engaged and healthy life. It is important that educators and professionals in the extracurricular sector work together to ensure that young people reach their full potential.

Carlyn Andrew is a social-emotional learning expert and Senior Director of Counseling and Training for Boys & Girls Clubs of Fox Valley (northeastern Wisconsin. With nearly 20 years of experience, Carlyn, herself a mother, specializes in mindful practices trauma Connect with her on LinkedIn, instagram, Twitter Where Facebook.


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