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The Official Blog of the Mansfield Independent School District.

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Social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student, and research has shown that increased social and emotional proficiency is associated with reductions in a variety of problem behaviors.

Although social-emotional learning (SEL) tools have been implemented at different MISD campuses, the district formed a SEL department last year to create a more uniform and intentional way of improving school climate and student engagement.

“When a student feels safe and a student feels happy, a student is going to be more successful,” said Karrye Aquino, MISD’s SEL facilitator. “And if we can get to kids when they’re really young, and we can make them feel safe, we can help them manage their emotions. They’re going to be a more effective student and, ultimately, be a more successful citizen.”

SEL is the set of skills, knowledge, and behaviors involved in understanding and managing emotions, setting positive goals, feeling empathy for others, engaging in positive relationships and solving problems effectively.

Teachers and staff members receive SEL training year-round to help meet the holistic needs of children. The latest session was held Jan. 22-23, which focused on relationship skills.

“Relationships are the foundation for social-emotional learning, and I want our teachers to walk away today knowing that relationship building is something that we support and that we know will help students learn more effectively,” she said.

Aquino added that a big misconception associated with social-emotional learning is that it’s a program. She said SEL is a culture and way of operating that has to be deliberately taught throughout an organization.

Staff members who attended the training said it helped remind them that students are individual people who have their own individual needs.

“It’s so refreshing to be in a district that understands the importance of honing in on student’s feelings, knowing how their feeling and asking how I can make them feel better,” said Brittney Howell, teacher at Willie E. Brown Academy of Young Scholars. “I feel like that’s the foundation before you can even start the learning process with the students.”

Mansfield ISD’s SEL department works year-round to develop and enhance the self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work and life success.

More information about the MISD social-emotional learning is available on the department's web page.

For a child who needs emotional support, mentorship can change the trajectory of their future.

January is National Mentoring Month, a campaign that celebrates mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives. It also places attention on the need for mentors to help ensure positive outcomes for youth.

Mansfield ISD partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide one-on-one mentoring to students. The program is committed to connecting students with caring adults who can help students overcome obstacles and succeed in school and life.

“I think any child needs as many caring adults in their lives as possible,” said Elizabeth Carmody, director of community relations and advertising. “The data shows that students with mentors often times have better attendance at school and better behavior; but most importantly, it has a positive impact on their social-emotional development and their feeling of well-being.”

According to mentoring.org, at-risk youth who had a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll into college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. Dr. Kelvin Stroy, director of student services, said the impact made just from spending quality time with a child is astonishing.

“Our kids really need people in their lives who are going to be there, who are going to come and see them and take time out of their day just to focus on them,” said Dr. Stroy. “That time lets children know that someone truly cares for them.”

MISD currently has more than 200 mentors who help students. Mentors are carefully vetted to ensure they are qualified and a right fit for the assigned child.

“It highlights the strengths of our community. We have our faith-based organizations, we have businesses, we have community partners, we have retired teachers, but also individuals who just decided they want to spend more time with kids and be able to give back.”

Mentors must be able to meet for an hour at least once a week at the student’s school. Those wanting to become a mentor can visit the MISD mentoring webpage. After completing the application, candidates will be contacted to interview.

With the pressures and challenges facing adolescent girls, an event was held to empower them to be confident in who they are and make the right choices.

The second annual Level Up Girls Empowerment Conference was held Jan. 9 at the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts. It’s a concept that came together thanks to the work of MISD counselors Marcie Thomas and Candace Minor-Chism.

“They understood that our girls were needing some extra assistance with how to regulate their emotions and understanding themselves as young ladies,” said Dr. Kisha McDonald, director of social-emotional learning. “I am very proud of them for seeing this need. It is one of the five social-emotional competencies, which is social awareness.”

“Flawsome,” which means to embrace your flaws and know you're awesome regardless, was the theme of the event.

The girls attended a keynote session and then rotated through different workshops that taught them about their worth, how to understand their thoughts and how to manage their emotions. Attendees said it opened their eyes to see someone else’s perspective.

“I learned that many people go through a lot of things, and you’re not the only one going through something,” said Jayden Baldwin, a sixth-grader at Cross Timbers Intermediate School. “And be kind to others because there’s a lot going on in people’s lives.”

Dr. Skeetora Taylor, one of the speakers, is a medical director at John Peter Smith (JPS) Health Network who oversees 4,000 patients. She said that the conference is probably the most important events on her agenda for the entire year because being able to mentor the young girls is that high on her priority list.

“The youth of today are going to be our future,” said Dr. Taylor. “And the better they are, the better our future is, so I think it’s really important to give them the tools they need to be successful.”

Approximately 100 girls from Cross Timbers Intermediate School and T.A. Howard Middle School attended the conference. Dr. McDonald added that the healthy habits learned there will improve their life at school, home and beyond.  

“It is very important they understand and present to our ladies that they can be leaders in our society and they can make a different in world,” she said.

The sixth- through eighth-graders who attended the conference were chosen by the school counselors, referred by other staff members or showed great interest in the topics being discussed. Organizers plan to hold another Level Up Conference next year.

Mansfield ISD wishes all of you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! Take a look at some of the festivities that happened this month.

Please note that MISD students and teachers are off from Dec. 19 until the new year. Teachers come back on Jan. 6. Students return on Jan. 8.

Enjoy the break!

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