SOUTHINGTON - As Southington students begin another semester today, Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan has stated that his objectives for the district include increased focus on social emotional learning and aligning the curriculum with a “vision of a graduate” outline.
Southington faculty met for an hour Wednesday with Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which developed the concept of “social emotional learning,” to have him further explain the concept. Connellan said Brackett’s studies have shown that kids who feel safer and more comfortable are more prepared for learning. Students that are being bullied or are otherwise struggling with outside issues, however, won’t be as available. Connellan defined it as focusing on emotional intelligence.
“It is students and adults being able to label the kinds of emotions they are experiencing and having the tools to be able to regulate them,” he said. “We don’t always know what is going on with our students before they come in to school or after they leave. But, what they are experiencing may have an impact on their readiness to learn. We have piloted this program at Oshana Elementary School, formerly Plantsville Elementary School, Strong Elementary and John F. Kennedy Middle School. We now want to begin expanding this program to staff at our other schools. Having Dr. Brackett speak to our staff was an honor and it will be a huge step toward being able to implement this. The intention is not to drive up performance, but to help students develop social skills that will naturally lead to them performing better.”
Connellan said each school will be reaching out to parents, whether through back to school meetings or parent teacher organizations, to explain how this approach works and to encourage them to speak to their children about it.
Additionally, physical safety improvements have been made throughout the district. Connellan said that the district has increased the number of radios used by the school system, thus improving communications.
“We are also continuing to work with our police and fire and emergency management personnel to enhance our response processes,” said Connellan. “Last year, we moved to having unannounced safety drills in school. Both police and fire personnel went in and with faculty, which was very helpful. We will continue to refine this process.”
The camera system at Southington High School has also been upgraded, Connellan said. The cameras are now mobile, take images in high definition and are accessible by the police department to provide a greater level of security.
The school district is also undergoing a curriculum review. Connellan said he aims to have it line up with the “Vision of a Graduate” identified by the Board of Education two years ago. This plan lays out what skills students are expected to have during each phase of their education and what they should have before graduating high school. In addition to just content mastery, it also includes useful life skills such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving, which Connellan said would be tied in to each class.
“We hope to work in more 21st century skills with the curriculum as we review it,” he said.
The following is the stated “Vision of a Graduate.”
“A graduate of the Southington Public Schools will be college or career ready and prepared for life beyond by mastering the knowledge and demonstrating the skills to communicate effectively, think creatively and critically, and contribute to the global community.”
Furthermore, Connellan said he is exploring the possibility of an increased use of social media to convey information to parents and other members of the community.
“We want our communication to be a little better - in my opinion we have not done a good enough job in this area,” he said. “We want to be able to let people understand what is happening in the schools and increase the type of information available to parents and other members of the community. We want to be proactive, but there are as of yet no definite plans.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.