Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk: Promoting Emotional Well-being in Schools

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the focus on academic achievement is now complemented by a growing awareness of the importance of students' emotional well-being. One approach gaining significant attention is the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework. PBIS goes beyond traditional discipline methods, emphasizing a proactive and positive approach to behavior management, ultimately creating an environment conducive to academic success and emotional flourishing. Our school board and the current strategic action plan support PBIS by providing a curriculum and a social-emotional counselor for every school site in our district.

At its core, PBIS is a school-wide framework designed to promote positive behavior and prevent unwanted behaviors through a systematic approach. The framework is based on the belief that teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding positive behavior is more effective than punishing negative behavior. PBIS operates on a three-tiered system, addressing the needs of all students while providing additional support to those who require more individualized attention.

The foundation of PBIS lies in Tier 1, which focuses on providing universal support to all students. Schools often implement evidence-based programs such as the Second Step Program to deliver essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. Second Step is a comprehensive curriculum designed to teach students crucial skills such as empathy, emotion management, and problem-solving. By integrating SEL into the curriculum, schools create an environment that fosters emotional intelligence alongside academic achievement.

One notable aspect of the Second Step Program is its emphasis on teaching students to recognize and understand their emotions. Through age-appropriate lessons, students learn to identify their feelings and develop the skills necessary to manage them effectively. This not only contributes to a more positive classroom environment but also equips students with tools they can carry into their adult lives.

Complementing Second Step is the implementation of the Zones of Regulation, a concept designed to help students recognize and regulate their emotions. The Zones categorize emotions into four color-coded zones—blue, green, yellow, and red—each representing different levels of emotion. By familiarizing students with these zones, we empower them to identify their feelings and use the appropriate strategies for self-regulation.

While Tier 1 caters to the general student population, Tier 2 involves targeted support for individuals who may require additional assistance developing behavioral, social, emotional, or academic skills. This stage involves a more personalized approach, often called “targeted reteach.” Targeted reteaching involves identifying students struggling with certain skills and providing additional practice and support. Organized by the on-site social-emotional counselor, targeting reteaching may include small group interventions, individual counseling, or behavior academies to address specific challenges. By tailoring support to individual needs, we can effectively address issues before they escalate, fostering a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.

The integration of Tier 1 and Tier 2 support is crucial for the success of PBIS. As students progress through Tier 1 interventions, those who require additional help seamlessly transition into targeted reteach programs. This collaborative approach ensures that every student receives the necessary support, preventing the development of chronic behavioral or emotional challenges.

In an era where education extends beyond textbooks and standardized tests, prioritizing students' emotional well-being is not just a choice but a necessity. We’re thankful that our school board recognizes this need. PBIS, with its multi-tiered approach and integration of evidence-based programs like the Second Step Program and Zones of Regulation, stands as a beacon for creating nurturing learning environments. By fostering emotional intelligence and providing targeted support where needed, schools can pave the way for students to succeed academically and thrive emotionally, preparing them for a future of resilience, empathy, and personal growth.