Cedar Rapids High School socio-emotional program to help students deal with their feelings, prepare for t


“When students are better able to identify their feelings, I think we will have a more positive culture and a place where people feel safer,” said Justin Blietz, director of culture and climate for students. Cedar Rapids schools. (The Gazette)

The educational leadership and support center for the Cedar Rapids Community School District in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Cedar Rapids high school students will learn to identify and deal with their feelings as the district first rolls out a social-emotional learning program in all four high schools.

Adding the program to Kennedy, Jefferson, Washington and Metro High Schools will teach students the tools to regulate their emotions and even better collaborate and problem-solve together, said Justin Blietz, director of culture and climate transformation for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

“It prioritizes the development of the child as a whole,” said Blietz. “When students are better able to identify their feelings, I think we’ll have a more positive culture and a place where people feel more secure. “

Socio-emotional learning is the development of healthy identities, managing emotions, setting and achieving goals, empathizing for others, making and maintaining friendships, and making responsible decisions and caring.

The program – Leadership Habits – will be a course that all high school students will take once a week during class.

Habits is a four-year program. While all high school students this year will have the first year of the curriculum, today’s freshman will be able to work through all four years of the curriculum during their career at high school.

It is also designed to teach college and career preparation.

Cedar Rapids elementary and middle schools have established a social-emotional learning program, but research tells educators it’s just as important at the high school level, Blietz said.

Schools that implement socio-emotional learning see their academic performance increase by 11%, he added.

Blietz also noted that employers report that socio-emotional skills are one of the most important skills employees can have.

Students will be questioned three times on their socio-emotional development throughout the year. They will be asked questions about their current classes, their behavior, their feelings and how others are helping them.

For example, students will be asked:

  • How confident are you that you can complete all assigned work in your classes?
  • How much did you care about the feelings of others?
  • How often are you able to get out of a bad mood?
  • Do you have a teacher or other adult in school who you can count on to help you no matter what?

Shawn Thomsen, a Kennedy High facilitator, said it was a “dramatic change” to provide socio-emotional learning in the classroom. Students traditionally meet in the main hall for school activities such as voting for the reunion tribunal and for standardized tests.

Facilitators have a variety of tasks including relationship building, attendance tracking, discipline, and even dining room supervision.

The program will give educators a “common language” to talk to students about their emotions and how to make decisions as well as the long-term impact of those decisions, Thomsen said.

Syndy Richey, also a Kennedy High host, works with teachers to develop socio-emotional lessons. One of the lessons they discuss is impulse control, she said.

For example, if a student has an urge to do something they know they shouldn’t do, identifying that might help prevent unwanted behavior, Richey said.

“We’re talking about ‘Every learner. Future Ready ‘as our motto at Cedar Rapids, ”said Richey.

“It’s not just about educating students academically. They need to know who they are as a person and how they fit into the world.

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