In our SEL Ambassador Spotlight Series, we’re highlighting the incredible work of educators and education leaders who prioritize, implement, and advocate for social emotional learning in their communities.
“It was magical to see. A first-grade student told me, ‘Ms. Blandford, remember when I was bad, I’m not bad anymore. I know how to handle myself.’ Brought tears to my eyes.”
Indian Head Elementary from Charles County Public Schools in Maryland is dedicated to creating and sustaining positive relationships, and it shows through their utilization of Social Emotional Learning. We spoke with Principal Shane Blandford, who stresses the importance of youth being equipped with the skills to deal with conflict and emotions in healthy ways, and how Move This World is making it possible.
Move This World (MTW): How did you know your community needed the support of an SEL program?
Shane Blandford: Student behavior is a direct reflection of lack of SEL. After dealing with so many extreme behaviors during my first year and speaking to so many students about what their difficulties were, it was evident that they didn’t know how to handle conflict, or know how to manage the trauma they were witnessing in their own lives.
MTW: How has SEL impacted your community?
Ms. Blandford: We saw a significant drop in office referrals during our first year of implementing MTW. Teachers were also becoming more sensitive to students’ emotional needs. Families during the pandemic were able to see MTW first hand and have incorporated some of the strategies into their homes.
I think one of my favorite stories of impact is a first grader who was struggling with how to manage their emotions. He would often end up clearing the classroom with his behavior. After implementing MTW for about 6 months, he started to be able to articulate what he was feeling using the building blocks he was learning and would recognize when he needed a break. He still had some outbursts but they slowly started to diminish. He went from clearing classrooms with his violent outbursts, to leaving the classroom to take breaks with me or my VP, to being able to take his breaks right in the classroom. It was magical to see. He now tells me, “Ms. Blandford, remember when I was bad, I’m not bad anymore. I know how to handle myself.” Brought tears to my eyes.
MTW: What is your favorite Emoger (Emotion Management Strategy) or MTW exercise?
Ms. Blandford: Tighten and Release is probably my favorite Emoger. I can visibly see students using it in school, and I personally use it often. My favorite MTW exercise is 4321 Shake Off because you can visualize things you are shaking out, and that helps to let things go.
MTW: What advice do you have for schools that are new to implementing SEL?
Ms. Blandford: Make it a priority and allow time for it in your schedule. All of the pressure with getting all of the subjects in during the day is real, but if you don’t allow for SEL time, the time spent cramming in academics will not be effective if students aren’t available for learning.
Ms. Blandford sheds light on the importance of investing in our students. With over 20 years of education experience, we thank Principal Blandford, for believing in students enough to invest in their mental well-being!