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The #RBBisBIA Road Back: SEL & #RBWell

Every year, as the ball drops on New Year's Eve, many of us make a promise to be different—better, healthier, and happier—and yet only 1 out of 4 will actually stick to his or her resolution. One reason for this may be that our resolutions rarely address our overall wellbeing—a sustained feeling of harmony, energy, safety and peace. Resolutions like "lose ten pounds," "learn a new language," or "quit smoking" are perfectly reasonable goals, but they each only address a small part of our wellbeing. It's not just our weight or our diet or our education that creates health and happiness; there are numerous factors that are continuously affecting one another.

As you consider how to be healthier and happier during these unprecedented times, you may begin by asking yourself a basic question: "What can I do to achieve more balance in my life?" It is this question that motivated us to create the #RBWell initiative in January 2020. 

During our February 2020 Professional Learning Day, Alisha DeLorenzo, CEO/Founder of Living YES and Interim Deputy Director, Garden State Equality gave a keynote address to all staff. Her message was clear - if we don’t connect with our students, we cannot get to the content. And, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be successful in taking care of our students. Her afternoon sessions gave an overview of dealing with trauma in our schools. Staff focused on The Eight Dimensions of Wellness which are important in the pursuit of optimum health: Emotional, Environmental, Financial, Intellectual, Occupational, Physical, Social and Spiritual Wellness. They had the chance to participate in numerous sessions facilitated by colleagues and outside providers such as the Visiting Nurse Association, Hackensack Meridian Health, Project Write Now, Brown & Brown and more. Additionally, they participated in sessions dealing with Synergy, AVID, Writing, Dance, Meditation and Yoga, Flipgrid, Tech Tools, Music, Art, Cricut, Spanish for Educators and more! 

Fast Forward to September 2020 - what a difference 7 months would make! Never could anyone planning for February 2020 possibly imagine the health pandemic and the importance of connections. We saw the direct impact that COVID-19 had on our students, their families, our staff, the community and world. The closing down of schools for in-person instruction increased so many needs, the biggest one being Social Emotional Learning (SEL) - the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

As we began planning for a return to in-person instruction this September, we quickly realized that nothing about it would be “normal.” Schedules would be vastly different, routines would be turned upside down, staff would be taking on different roles, families would be dealing with their own challenges and the connections made from September 2019 through March 2020 would change because of students moving ahead a grade level (and even changing schools with our Preschool 4 and Grade 3 students). Therefore, this work that was begun earlier in the year is being carried forward this year in various ways. SEL is being embedded in the daily routines of all students, staff is constantly learning new strategies in order to meet the needs of our students and we are looking forward to our continued partnership with Alisha DeLorenzo which will be complemented with embedded AVID Strategies through the support of Mary Wyman, our AVID District Director and Culture & Climate Specialist, and the work of our School Counselors.

 Thus far, our 2020-2021 school reopening has been a relatively smooth transition for students and staff.  In hindsight, our emphasis on SEL, self-care, and wellness as part of our 2019-2020 professional learning schedule proved to be fortuitous. Our staff clearly appreciated our commitment to their well-being and as a result, embraced the #RBWell movement at a most pivotal time period allowing us to face the challenges of the COVID-19 health pandemic unified in strength, positivity, and togetherness. For some time now our school community seems to rise to every occasion regardless of the particular challenge. Some people would classify what we have as an indomitable spirit.  It is really a culture that is saturated with the Dream BIG...We’ll Help You Get There attitude and the #RBBIsBIA mindset. We have already accomplished so much but now that our attitude and mindset are fortified with our focus on social and emotional health, even greater things are on the horizon.


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