Drake is a 28-year teaching veteran who helps lead Santa Rosa City School’s social-emotional learning efforts, an initiative started after the 2017 Tubbs fire and now key to advancing learning since schools are physically closed in his community due to Covid-19.

As teachers like Drake can attest, this school year has presented unparalleled challenges for educators, parents, and students alike. The pandemic, compounded with wildfires and the urgent need to redress racial inequity in our society, has upended any sense of normalcy in our schools. And as our students and educators slowly begin returning to school buildings, life will look dramatically different with social distancing and myriad safety precautions in place.

Trauma, in fact, may well be one of the unifying experiences of 2020 — and evidence exists that a widespread mental health crisis amongst our youth has already begun.

That is why now, more than ever, there is urgency to expand social and emotional learning so all students in California can benefit. And it is critical that these efforts are supported at both the local and state level.

Social and emotional learning, as a practice, is a set of strategies to help students develop the emotional skills that are vital for success in school — and life — like developing self-awareness, navigating healthy relationships, and building resilience. Research shows that social and emotional learning gives students a greater sense of trust and belonging, makes schools safer, and significantly increases academic achievement.

In other words, when used effectively, social and emotional learning can be the bridge between the trauma that our students face, and those same students’ readiness to learn the more traditional set of curricula that teachers are trained to teach.

Social and emotional learning is not new in our schools, but we must accelerate our efforts to make it commonplace. And yes, this school year has stretched educators beyond what they could have imagined.

Read the full article about social-emotional learning by Linda Darling-Hammond, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and Tony Thurmond at EdSource.