Jon Bowen

Social and Emotional Support, a Conversation with Jon Bowen

Tuesday , September 21 , 2021

PVSchools provides social and emotional supports to students in real-time. We met up with Jon Bowen, District SEL specialist, to discuss what’s new and how teachers and staff are supporting students this school year.

Living in a global pandemic is tough, it takes its toll on our mental health. However, PVSchools is working to support students and staff. What supports are available this year in PVSchools? There are certainly new stressors out there, but we continue to help kids through challenging experiences. The loss of loved ones, divorce, and other life challenges, for example. Keeping in mind that we want to keep parents included. This is a partnership, and our parents are a significant part of the process.

As far as support for our students, this could look different on every campus. Staff continues to adjust to meet the needs of our different communities. We encourage each of our schools to think about what all students need, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. In PVSchools, we focus on being responsive to students who need extra support by using multiple referrals and data sources.

For staff, last year many schools had a focus on self-care. It’s important to continue that focus along with promoting reasonable workloads, fostering healthy connections, and collaboration.  

This isn’t the first year that PVSchools has provided students with social and emotional support. Reflecting back, what’s been the biggest takeaway? Social and emotional support is a district-level focus, and we’ve learned that our schools and their communities each have different needs. The biggest takeaway for me personally? I feel that I have been reminded that adults can also grow and develop social and emotional skills throughout their lifespan; I myself, have had to delve deeply into my own self-awareness and self-management skills.

We imagine this field is always evolving, so what’s new this year? It is. This year schools are really thinking more systematically about their social, emotional, and behavioral instruction and support. We still have work to do in defining roles, establishing effective collaboration, and setting goals, which has been challenging due to the pandemic.

For the 2020-21 school year, PVSchools hired 27 SEL professionals to support the work being done by our social workers and counselors. For the current school year, has the number of SEL professionals increased? Thank you for acknowledging that SEL approaches and support are a shared effort amongst a number of professional groups, teachers, and other staff. The district did add a part-time position to help support our PVConnect students. Grant funding allowed us to add a number of social workers and counselors as well.

We know that the work our SEL employees do is crucial to help students recover from the trauma and disruptions of a global pandemic. Tell us how the SEL team supports students who are experiencing trauma or the loss of a family member?  The best approach we can focus on for supporting our trauma-exposed students is to create a school environment where they feel safe and connected. We can all help promote that type of school climate and be a positive adult presence and important relationship for students.

We know that teacher professional development plays an integral role in supporting our students. Why is it imperative to have our teachers take courses on SEL topics? To effectively promote student social and emotional learning we need to both understand those skills and be able to show them in action. In the same vein, we need to promote and support staff wellness. We cannot pour from an empty cup, and we know that an unregulated adult cannot adequately help a student with their own self-regulation.

We all need a positive outlet to decompress from day-to-day pressures and stress. Tell us what helps you deal with your stress. I like to think of self-care, both preventative and reactive approaches, as a choose-your-own-adventure endeavor. Personally, a regular yoga practice and spending time in nature helps keep me even and feeling well. After a tough day, some vigorous physical activity is often the reset I need.