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2nd Annual Supporting the Whole Child: Social-Emotional Learning “Play for Preemies” Charlottesville City Schools has earned state and national recognition for its commitment to supporting the whole child, which includes mental wellness, social-emotional learning and an atmosphere that supports students who have experienced trauma. Part of this is a commitment to teaching children specific behaviors, including the ability to recognize and regulate their emotions. By teaching behavioral and emotional skills, and by creating routines that support emotional wellness, we believe our students will see personal and academic gains. At Venable Elementary, Principal Dr. Erin Kershner is seeing the fruits of these programs first-hand. Q: Why is social-emotional learning important at school? Kershner: We are finding that students are becoming more self-aware and better able to self-regulate as teachers and adults give them language and tools to do so. We are also finding that when adults are more traumaresponsive, it helps to strengthen the relationships and trust between adults and children. With trust, most problems can be resolved in the classroom so that learning can continue. We are excited

about the journey that we’re on to learn more about how we can better respond to the needs of our students in a way that promotes the health of our entire community. Q: What’s a classroom Safe Zone? Kershner: Safe Zones are classroom areas where a student who is feeling out of sorts can go to re-regulate and then re-engage with class activities when he or she is ready. Different from a time out, Safe Zone acknowledges that students always want to do their best and demonstrate expected behaviors. If students aren’t behaving their best, then something is interfering with their ability to regulate their emotions or behaviors, and they need some time, space and resources to re-regulate. We, as the adults, need to provide extra care and support in these times for students; they need to know that we will keep them safe and help them get back to showing their best. Q: What are some of the resources students are using to help them reregulate? Kershner: In each Safe Zone, teachers have placed one or two resources such as deep breathing prompts, mandalas

to color or low-intensity exercises that students can do. We also use a curriculum called Zones of Regulation ( in the Safe Zones, which helps students identify what zone they’re in—green (feeling good), yellow (nervous or annoyed), red (angry) or blue (sad, tired, etc.). The curriculum gives children strategies for working their way back to green. This curriculum is being explicitly taught in kindergarten this year, and it will grow with the students as they move up. School counselors and administrators are also successfully using this same system when speaking with students and making a plan to resolve any disciplinary issues that arise. Q: Would these strategies work at home? Kershner: Yes, teachers at schools throughout Charlottesville tell stories of their students who have taught their whole family how to “check in” with each other about what zone they are in. If parents want to learn more about the home applications of these tools, they can ask their child’s teacher or visit to find resources.

Krissy is the Community Relations Liaison for Charlottesville City Schools. She can be reached at


February 2019

Profile for Ivy Publications

CharlottesvilleFamily's BLOOM February 2019  

Volume 20 Issue 2

CharlottesvilleFamily's BLOOM February 2019  

Volume 20 Issue 2