In addition to robust academics, this year, Sunridge Middle School students are also learning how to connect with classmates, build social-emotional skills, and more.
A revision from last year’s calendar is the addition of a designated Advisory period of 32 minutes, which is the third period five days a week. This change means one less period for students, but Piper Kelm, SMS Principal, said Advisory is being utilized for growth. At the start of the period, all students watch a recorded video of school announcements. The announcements (video link and written) are emailed every day to 900 parents of SMS students. “This is one way we are trying to connect parents to our building and a way for them to ask their child about specific ways to be involved in school,” Kelm said.
Monday during Advisory is used for Grade Checks and follow-up with students who need extra academic support. Tuesday and Wednesday are for Character Strong, a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)/Character Education curriculum taught by every Advisory teacher. The goal is to help students develop self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and more to become healthy and kind individuals.
On Thursdays and Fridays during Advisory, teachers provide lessons created by the SMS counselors. Topics may include digital citizenship (the ability to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly), suicide prevention, career education, and more.
Principal Kelm said since the pandemic, there are many students who struggle with dysregulated behaviors, the inability to control or regulate one’s emotional responses. She said having designated time during the week to provide lessons and skills about getting along with others, making connections, and addressing lagging skills in social-emotional learning is crucial to creating a successful learning environment.
Other supports in the building include DESSA screening for social-emotional wellness and small groups led by counselors for students and employees from Community Counseling Solutions in the building.
“We have students for only a little bit of time, and they are at a tender age with some vulnerability. Being socially-emotionally healthy helps kids feel safe, which means they can learn more effectively and make greater academic gains,” Kelm said.
She encourages parents to know who their child’s counselor at school is, reach out about concerns, and to always feel welcome to communicate with SMS staff.