By: Evan Whatley
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an initiative that Howard County started this year, in order to promote growth and learning within each school in creating a more open and trusting environment. SEL time is every Monday from 10:50 – 11:20 am. The Social Emotional Distance Learning time was created based on the needs of forthcoming students who felt their voice needed to be heard by their peers and classmates on difficult topics such as race and culture.
In June 2020, after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and countless other Black people, students alike felt it was important to address how the Howard County Public School System has upheld structural and institutional racism in its schools. Many students and alumni felt it was needed to ensure that people of color in the HCPSS community are heard and advocated for. Glenelg Senior, Derek Spratley says, “I did not feel comfortable with the current state of Glenelg as a whole.” Many students and students of color feel that Howard County Schools have not established a safe environment in schools, especially since racist events have occurred multiple times in such schools.
Glenelg High School has been known to have multiple racist incidents throughout recent years. During the 2019-2020 school year, Glenelg had students fill out a belonging survey and participate in a group gathering to discuss racism within our school. The survey helped establish and show teachers that many students did not feel safe or comfortable with the current environment and conditions within Glenelg High School. Senior, Jonah Wisniewski believes, “SEL may seem like a waste of time to some people, but in some of my SEL discussions we’ve had important conversations about race and hard issues to talk about.” Talking about difficult topics can be hard for many students and it is very important to have these discussions especially within the current state of America and Howard County as a whole. “I feel like these discussions are really important and need to be had contrary to some of my peers' beliefs,” says Senior, Chris Heller. The environment at Glenelg is one many students feel needs to change and the discussions during SEL have been a major factor in students venting their opinions on the changes needed to be made at Glenelg.
Is SEL worth it? Glenelg Freshman, Evan Brown says, “I am just a freshman so I can't speak on previous experiences, but I feel like SEL lessons are very boring and not that helpful because no one talks.” Shyness and being uncomfortable speaking your mind has been an issue with online learning and the SEL lessons. The lessons can not be beneficial when no one participates. Teachers and faculty have approached this issue with the usage of peardeck, a website used for students to give anonymous feedback to questions and topics which are to be discussed during the SEL lesson.
All in all, the overall belief is that SEL, or Social Emotional Learning, is seen as an essential part of school each week to allow students to vent and speak their mind on issues which may pertain to them or pertain to their feelings.