The Impact of SEL Day


Clarion photo Sean Lee

On Wednesday, March 2, Cleveland tried its hand at its first SEL–Social and Emotional Learning–Day. The day consisted of a shortened schedule, with three sessions ending at 11:30. Students were allowed to choose two of the sessions they attended, with options including Planned Parenthood’s Teen Council’s Consent and Boundaries, Healthy Masculinity, and Cake Decorating. One required session was “Racial Equity in the Classroom, in the Community, and in the Mind” presentation, hosted by PPS’s Restorative Justice Specialist, Yusuf Leary. Split up by grade level, the presentation filled one of the hour-long spots. Students’ opinions were mixed–some felt that the day was beneficial to their social-emotional health, others thought it was pointless, and many didn’t attend at all. The objective of SEL day was to give students a short break from the daily stressors of the classroom and instead learn applicable skills. Another one is planned for April 13, the day many juniors will be taking the SAT.

There were several logistical concerns that got the SEL Day off to a rocky start. For one, students were only informed about the event several days prior, leading to widespread confusion as to what the SEL Day was. Student leaders may have been involved in the conception of the day, but until Principal Wadkins sent out a schoolwide briefing, information did not reach the general population very efficiently. Second, students had an opportunity to sign up for sessions through a Google Form, yet many who attended popular sessions did not sign up, leading to overcrowded rooms. This was unfair to the students who had properly signed up and diminished the quality of the experience. Lastly, a lack of attendance was noticeable, as many presumably took the SEL Day off to recharge and catch up on sleep. Future improve- ments in communication and attendance would greatly benefit members of the PPS community.

The SEL Day was a compact few hours of learning. While many sessions were educational and provided students opportunities to give feedback, a few hours of social emotional learning each semester is insufficient. Yusuf Leary’s “Racial Equity in the Classroom, in the Community, and in the Mind” was an enlightening presentation for many students as conversations around race are infrequent within the PPS curriculum. We believe more time should be dedicated to racial equity education within Cleveland, whether frequent presentations, or entire days dedicated to the topic. Leary’s illuminating presentation felt rushed and information was cut short due to the time constraints. Particularly in light of the recurring hate crimes within Cleveland, time for racial equity education should be the top priority to create an inclusive, welcoming, and safe community for all students.

Some less educational activities, such as board games or cake decorating, offered time for socialization and relaxation that is often scarce during a regular school day–many students cited this as a positive impact. The more education focused sessions were also valuable to students, especially those that made students aware of ongoing resources and opportunities for support in the community. Additionally, having a half day was very helpful to many students, providing more time to catch up on school work or do anything else that may have been needed. The next SEL Day is scheduled to overlap with the SAT, which means many juniors will have to trade a relaxing experience for a more stressful one. With more improvements and frequency, our hope is that all students will be able to enjoy the benefits of SEL Days.

At the end of SEL Day, students were offered a survey about their experience. The survey featured questions about the relevance of the sessions and the format of the day. The work put into the day makes it clear that teachers, admin, and student groups are invested in expanding our school education to encompass social and emotional needs. Days like this and the subsequent opportunities for feedback are a step in the right direction, as giving students a voice in what support they need is a vital step in making improvements. We hope SEL days will be continued, with administrators incorporating feedback to improve the PPS community.