FALL RIVER — Within the past few years, there has been a huge increase in the social and emotional needs of students across all age groups, economic status, and cultural backgrounds. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of kids between 13 and 17 concluded that seven in 10 teens think anxiety and depression are major problems for their peers and that almost 60 percent of kids categorize bullying as the second most major problem for their peers . There are dozens of other studies that confirm today’s students are full of distractions which add a lot of pressure during these formative years of development; thus students of all ages are suffering from mental health issues more than ever before.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects exacerbate this problem by disrupting student schedules and environments, in addition to heightening concerns about the health and well-being of friends and family. The pandemic has also contributed to an increase in family difficulties as the stresses of lost jobs, financial challenges, and limited personal contact have taken a toll on everyone, including children. It is no surprise that schools are encountering a soaring number of students with social and emotional needs and are looking for ways to help them.
During the final two days of August, the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools prepared their teachers, administrators and staff members to meet the challenges of social emotional needs of their students through professional development provided by Molly McMahon, Ph.D. Dr. McMahon is the Director of Leadership Programs at Boston College’s Roche Center for Catholic Education, whose passion and experience focuses on managing and overseeing social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum.
Dr. McMahon reviewed the five broad and interrelated areas of competence known as the CASEL5, which takes a systemic approach that emphasizes the importance of establishing equitable learning environments and coordinating practices across key settings of classrooms, schools, families, and communities to enhance all students’ social, emotional, and academic learning .
“Catholic schools are inherently equipped to provide social and emotional learning through the core values of our faith that we possess, believe and teach. What I have learned is that when social emotional learning is implemented effectively in schools, for both students and staff, the school culture is transformed,” shared Dr. McMahon. “School leaders set the educational, social-emotional and Spiritual culture of the school, and teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education. Therefore, leadership matters now more than ever.”
Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Daniel S. Roy said, “The mission of the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools aligns perfectly with the core definition of social emotional learning and during these very challenging times, many families are choosing our schools because of this alignment. The pandemic has raised awareness to needs of students which may be better met at one of our Catholic schools because of the mission-based philosophies, smaller classes, and nurturing of the mind and soul of our students. We are thrilled to continue to equip our school leaders and educators with knowledge and skills to better help all students navigate their emotions and improve their abilities to learn.”
The Catholic Schools Alliance comprises administrators, teachers, staff, parents and clergy joined in partnership to educate the children of the Diocese of Fall River in Catholic faith and values. Our schools have a demanding educational culture that helps students from across the academic spectrum reach their God-given potential. With an emphasis on service and respect for the dignity of every person, we prepare students to meet the challenges of today’s diverse world and become meaningful contributors to society.
For more information about the Catholic Schools Alliance, visit www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/.