A Clear Vision to Start the 2020 School Year
Monday, August 24, 2020

By Ali Steward, MPH, Director of Youth Services Beach Cities Health District

The anticipation of the first day of school – on par with the first crack of a bat on Opening Day, and the final minutes of the year before the ball drops into the future. A jumble of hope and eagerness, optimism and earnestness.

In 2020, when we think we’ve seen it all, the school year will start not with a carefully calibrated dance of getting kids up, fed and out the door, but instead, perhaps just simply by logging on to “join meeting.”

Did you still purchase new school supplies? Were backpacks loaded, the night – or weeks, or even months – before? Was the first day of school outfit instead relegated to a Zoom shirt? Did you make it to the front step to document this year of firsts, only to beeline back to the kitchen table?

By definition, social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

There’s never been a better test of these skills than in the era of COVID-19.

Struggling with the sadness and frustration of missing out on Friday Night Lights, either from the field or the bleachers? A pop quiz on understanding and managing emotions.

Creating structure and boundaries at home around synchronous (which is together, with your classmates, just like synchronous swimmers are together, in the pool) or asynchronous learning? A test of setting – and achieving – positive goals.

Hearing your teacher say, “you’re frozen, again,” to the same classmate? A chance to feel and show empathy for those experiencing technical difficulties.

Learning about your peers’ summer adventures – likely closer to home this year – and their pets, siblings and grandparents, who might spontaneously drop into the virtual classroom? An examination of establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

Contributing to the class discussion, instead of streaming TikTok videos? A midterm on making responsible decisions.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn this year – academically, socially and emotionally. The key is to “get up, dress up and show up.” To stay updated on the latest school health news from BCHD, go to www.bchd.org/covid-schools.