Tampa schools are addressing social and emotional learning this school year

Before they start their lessons, kids are learning how to cope with their emotions at some Tampa schools.

"I think with the pandemic, everyone having so many feelings going around, they're understanding, OK we have to give our kiddos some time to breathe and then start," said Janola Morris, the director of the Doctors of Academics Tutoring in Tampa.

This new form of teaching is called social and emotional learning.

"We have what's called community building sessions where our students have a chance to talk about dialogue, talk about compliments, gratitude and mindfulness, which are skills that empower them to be successful," shared Otis Kitchen, the principal of Town 'N Country Elementary School.

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"It's something good teachers naturally do, but this year we're going to be more intentional about it. We're going to implement community-based meetings in the morning where students will have time to share their thoughts, their feelings, their emotions," explained Kevin Kastner, the principal of West Tampa Elementary School.

The non-profit Frameworks of Tampa Bay is working with schools to help students open up. They have a wheel of emotions that helps students explain their feelings. 

"Giving a name to an emotion, huge, huge deal for everyone," added Shannon Veronesi, the chief program officer with Frameworks.

"A lot of our students live in the same community so some of the stressors or some of the trauma that exists in that living environment comes into the classroom with them but when they are at Broward they are able to support each other through some of those traumatic experiences," explained Rennex Franklin, a school counselor at Broward Elementary School.

Educators say the pandemic presented a challenge that affected learning. With virtual school, students lost a connection to teachers and the school community. Veronesi says without that connection students won't learn.

Schools must take into account the impact the pandemic had on students. Reading and writing is important, but so is emotional coping according to Veronesi.

"We went through a very traumatic experience. Not one person wasn't affected by it so for us to ignore that right now would be detrimental to their learning," said Veronesi.

LINK: For more information about Frameworks of Tampa Bay visit myframeworks.org.