116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids high school students will learn to identify and manage their feelings as the district rolls out a social-emotional learning curriculum in all four high schools for the first time.
Adding the curriculum to Kennedy, Jefferson, Washington and Metro high schools will teach students the tools to regulate their emotions and even collaborate and problem-solve together better, said Justin Blietz, director of culture and climate transformation for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
“It is prioritizing the development of the whole child,” Blietz said. “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.”
Social-emotional learning is the developing of healthy identities, managing emotions, setting and achieving goals, showing empathy for others, establishing and maintaining friendships, and making responsible and caring decisions.
The curriculum — Habitudes Leadership — will be a class every high school students takes once a week during homeroom.
Habitudes is a four-year curriculum. While all high school students this year will have year one of the curriculum, today’s freshman will be able to work through all four years of the curriculum during their high school career.
It also is designed to teach college and career readiness.
Cedar Rapids elementary and middle schools have established social-emotional learning curriculum, but research tells educators that it’s equally important at the high school level, Blietz said.
Schools that implement social-emotional learning see an 11 percent boost in academic performance, he added.
Blietz also noted employers are reporting social-emotional competency as one of the most important skills employees can have.
Students will be surveyed three times on their social-emotional development throughout the year. They will be asked questions about their current classes, their behavior, their feelings and how other people help them.
For example, students will be asked:
- How confident are you that you can complete all the work assigned in your classes?
- How much did you care about other people’s feelings?
- How often are you able to pull yourself out of a bad mood?
- Do you have a teacher or other adult at school on whom you can count to help you no matter what?
Shawn Thomsen, a Kennedy High facilitator, said it’s a “dramatic shift” to offer social-emotional learning during homeroom. Students traditionally meet in homeroom for school activities such as voting for homecoming court and for standardized testing.
Facilitators have a variety of duties including relationship building, tracking attendance, disciplining and even monitoring the lunchroom.
The curriculum will give educators a “common language” to talk with students about their emotions and how to make decisions as well as what the long-term impact of those decisions might be, Thomsen said.
Syndy Richey, also a Kennedy High facilitator, is working with teachers to develop social-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, identifying that could help avoid an unwanted behavior, Richey said.
“We talk about ‘Every Learner. Future Ready’ as our motto in Cedar Rapids,” Richey said.
“It’s not just about educating students academically. They have to know who they are as a person and how they fit in to the world.”
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