Committee for Children Blog

Three Amazing Changes Teachers Are Seeing from Implementing the New Second Step Middle School Curriculum

Middle School

Teachers in sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade classrooms across the country who piloted the new Second Step Middle School Program are full of good things to say about it. When we asked for their feedback, many teachers mentioned positive changes they were seeing in their students.

Students Are More Respectful

Teachers described the way students really listened to and respected what their classmates had to say, and how they showed that respect by being more open-minded with one another. One teacher saw a student verbally “sticking up” for another student, a peer whose friend was picking on him for struggling with a test, while several other teachers referred to there being “a lot fewer behavior problems in the classroom.” Overall, teachers report that their students are showing more respect for each other after implementing the new curriculum.

Students Have Fun

Teachers pointed out how much their students enjoyed talking and writing about their emotions and discussing their real-life experiences. According to one teacher, “they really get into it.” Teachers felt their students bought in to the program right away and were enthusiastic about participating in the activities; one teacher attributed this to the program content being “absolutely relevant to today’s society and the issues going on in the world.”

Students Apply New Skills to Real-Life Situations

Teachers also commented on changes in their students’ daily interactions, both in and out of the classroom. One teacher heard students talking about what they had learned in Second Step lessons, while others heard students using language from the curriculum with their peers. One teacher said, “If they can name what it is, then they’re much more likely to be able to use those strategies and tools in the future.”

Students who piloted the program are thinking more about managing their emotions before acting, and teachers have observed situations where students made an effort to control their emotions. One teacher said students “think about things before they actually say them . . . They kind of just take a step back before they actually speak.” Others commented, “They know they can deal with their strong emotions and that their actions are connected to their emotions,” and “They can think of what they are saying before they say it.”

I’ll end by paraphrasing one of the most powerful and moving teacher examples of how the skills students learned in the new Second Step Middle School curriculum affected a real-life situation:

A student’s family experienced a fire that destroyed their home, and the student didn’t know how to express the emotions she was feeling, so she kept them in. Changes occurred in her behavior and her school performance; she stopped doing classwork and homework. After a few weeks of Second Step lessons, the student became more aware of what she was feeling and why she was so angry. She realized she was mad because she had lost everything and had no clothes, no home. The student began expressing her feelings more because the Second Step Program gave her an alternative to holding her feelings in. Because the student started expressing herself, school staff learned what was happening with the family and were able to help.

Find out more about the new Second Step Middle School curriculum here, and see more responses to the program from teachers and students in our other blog posts.

Have SEL programs like the Second Step Program benefited your students and school? If so, tell us your story! We may feature you on our website, in catalogs, or in advocacy materials. Send stories of SEL success to