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Marshalltown Schools supports students through social-emotional learning

Contributed photo Franklin Elementary School.

The past five months have been challenging for everyone. The members of our community have been put into a situation unlike any they have been put in before, which can easily create a lot of social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges in their lives. These challenges do not resolve themselves — it takes purposeful actions to find healthy ways to manage them.

Each day, the dedicated educators at Marshalltown Schools work to teach our students the specific skills needed to manage these challenges. You will hear us refer to it as Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL. Our focus on social and emotional learning helps children understand how to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals in socially appropriate ways, learn about empathy, develop positive healthy relationships with adults and children, and learn to make responsible decisions.

We teach these crucial social-emotional skills in a layered, systematic approach which is specifically designed to support our students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. It begins with ensuring all students understand what is expected of them in every area of the school as well as with our commitment to positively acknowledging them when they are meeting our expectations.

Your schools refer to this skills-building process as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. If your children attend Miller Middle School, Marshalltown High School, or Marshalltown Learning Academy, you may also hear about Capturing Kids Hearts. Capturing Kids Hearts (CKH) is an evidence-based approach that enhances our PBIS efforts with older students by allowing educators to build a positive community within their constantly-changing classroom of students.

Another layer of support is provided by our professional school counselors. These professionals provide social-emotional learning to young Bobcats regularly while using an evidence-based curriculum called Positive Action. The Positive Action lessons focus on nine primary skill areas and give our students an opportunity to practice the skills they’re learning in real time.

Additional tools, like the Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS), are used to proactively seek students who may need additional social-emotional support.

Our teachers use the SAEBRS survey several times each year to evaluate students’ general behavior, as well as their risk for social-behavior, academic-behavior and emotional-behavior difficulties. Tools like SAEBRS allow us to be proactive in supporting our students rather than waiting until they struggle.

Learning does not end when students leave the classroom. At Marshalltown Schools, we believe it is vital that our students receive consistent social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health supports both during and beyond the school day. Through partnering with other organizations and agencies within the community, we are able to collaborate and work together to provide more consistency throughout a child’s day.

We are very fortunate to have a number of great community partners to share in this work. Together, the Marshalltown Community School District and our great community partners are here to support our children and our families.

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Matt Cretsinger is the Director of Special Services for the Marshalltown Community School District.

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