Dr. Marc Schaffer
By Marc Schaffer
February brings Valentine’s Day and with it the opportunity to show people how much we care about them. At the Thompson School District, we care deeply about each of our students and strive to ensure that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, connected, supported, and involved. One way to support these goals is through social emotional learning and supporting the mental health of our students. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of our efforts to support your child’s development in these areas as well as how parents and guardians can be involved.
TSD educators teach basic social emotional skills such as self-confidence, self-management, relationship building, social awareness and responsible decision-making. All of our students benefit from expanding their skills in these areas. These skills are critical to success in friendships, extracurricular interests, college, jobs, and more. Additionally, by improving our students’ social emotional skills, we can sometimes reduce their need for more intense psychological support. Educators at all levels incorporate this learning into their teaching. Elementary school students can learn how to make and keep friends, while middle school students learn about healthy eating and activity, and students learn how to set and achieve their future career goals. Every day, TSD educators help their students improve their social emotional skills and prepare for future success.
TSD educators also understand the importance of creating a sense of belonging for each student and having a strong positive relationship with at least one caring adult for each student. When students experience a sense of connectedness and belonging, we can increase engagement, participation, achievement, and even graduation rates, as well as many other positive outcomes. Our staff look for creative ways to achieve this, including liaison sessions (special time during the school day to get in touch with students), clubs, after-school activities, and a variety of learning opportunities tailored to the students’ interests and needs . Our educators are always looking for ways to make the school day fun and recognize each student for their unique talents and achievements.
Sometimes the students need a little more support. All students have access to our incredible school counselors and social workers. You can work with students to help with anything from understanding and regulating their emotions to dealing with anxiety, loss, or family changes. Staff can provide crisis support and also have community connections to refer students and families to outside providers as needed.
We also have a wonderful team of district-wide social emotional and mental health specialists who provide support to students and staff at all levels, including education on suicide prevention and bullying prevention, PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support), recovery practices and positive school and cultural efforts, mental Health aid and more. We’re also happy to be part of a community that offers amazing comprehensive support services, from local therapists to award-winning organizations like Hearts and Horses.
How can parents and legal guardians get involved? Please contact the staff at your child’s school if you think they need more social, emotional, or psychological support in order to be successful in school. Not sure where to start? We all have a very simple tool in our toolkit. The best any of us can do to support a child’s social, emotional and mental health is to just listen. Connect with them, appreciate their unique selves, and enjoy the person they are growing into. An added benefit of slowing down for a few minutes to listen to your child is that you have another chance to notice changes in your child’s effects, attitudes, moods and behaviors, and to realize that you may need to contact the school counselor, the social worker, need to forward or a private therapist for additional support. You are not alone in this. Your child’s school staff are here to work with you and help you find the path to student success.
Thank you for everything you do to support your child and our schools. The whole child’s support takes up the whole community, and we couldn’t do it without you.
Dr. Marc Schaffer is the Superintendent of the Thompson School District.