Committee for Children Blog

Back-to-School Basics for Second Step®

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social emotional learning, principal, SEL, educators, Back-to-school basics

It’s not just students who need help transitioning from summer fun to new school schedules and routines. Everyone wants to milk the last days of summer and put off thinking about the hustle and bustle of a new school year, but a little prep can ease the transition. We’ve summed up years of aggregated wisdom into three nuggets of advice that’ll help you make the most of these back-to-school basics.

Plan with Purpose

Action starts with inspiration. Before defining your specific goals and the steps to get there, be sure that you and everyone in your school community first understands your reason why. This notion is popular among business leaders but works well for school leaders, too. If you want more information, read Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.

When school communities understand their purpose and have a clearly stated mission, shaped by input from all students, staff, and families, they can make progress, despite the many complex factors affecting educational outcomes outside of any single school’s control such as poverty, budget cuts, or trauma.

A typical school mission statement integrating motivational values could include a call for respecting the individual needs of students and developing their social, emotional, and academic capabilities to the fullest in a caring, compassionate environment. That’s where Second Step® comes in.

Second Step is more than classroom lessons. It’s a complete program that includes a wealth of tools and resources to support educators in their mission to help students reach their full potential.

Take a Tour of Online Resources

Are you aware of all the resources available on SecondStep.org? For example, did you know that you can find key Second Step implementation tasks outlined and categorized to motivate, prepare, train, support, validate, and sustain the program? To access all Second Step resources, follow these steps:

    • Register your product at SecondStep.org, if you haven’t already.
      • If you’re using the digital Second Step Middle School Program, register with the unique activation key you received when you purchased the program.
      • If you’re using a print curriculum—Early Learning, K-5, or 2008 Middle School—register with the unique activation key found on the first page of your Second Step binder or notebook.
      • If you need help, please contact us at: support@secondstep.org or at 800-634-4449, ext. 1.

    Finding Early Learning, Elementary, and 2008 Middle School Resources

    • Once you’re logged in to SecondStep.org, click on My Dashboard under the Second Step logo in the upper left corner.
    • Click Resources under the program of your choice. That will send you to a page with tabs you can tour.
      • Under the Teachers & Counselors tab, you can find the lesson scope and sequence, Streaming Lesson Media, and materials to engage families.
      • Under the Program Coordinator tab, you can access implementation and evaluation tools and administrator support.
      • Under the Training tab you can find and track your online training.

    Finding Current Middle School Resources

    • Once you’re logged in to SecondStep.org, click on My Dashboard under the Second Step logo in the upper left corner.
    • Click on the Middle School Program. That will send you to a page with several tabs to explore:
      • Under Teach you’ll find the Middle School lessons.
      • Under Extend you’ll find all the supporting materials, including the advisory activities.

    Under Professional Development you’ll find professional learning and program training.

Get the First Week Right

There’s a lot of excitement and information to convey and collect the first week of school, and it’s easy for students and staff to feel overwhelmed. One of the best ways to calm classrooms and create a positive climate for learning is to focus on establishing authentic connections built on trust and respect.

If you welcome students to class every day and set aside time weekly to teach Second Step lessons, you’ll be off to a great start. You can also strengthen relationships and learning by involving families from the start. We’ve included letters and take-home materials in Spanish and English to help explain the Second Step program and concepts and extend learning at home.

Quick-Start Checklists to Get Up and Running with Second Step
For Principals and Administrators For Teachers and Counselors
  • Register at SecondStep.org. Don’t have a kit or program access?
    • Early learning and elementary administrators can borrow one from a staff member who teaches the program to unlock access.
    • Middle school administrators can ask a staff member teaching the program for the school’s activation key if the school has a schoolwide license.
  • Tour online resources, such as Evaluation Tools, on SecondStep.org.
  • Elementary schools can host a meeting to introduce social-emotional learning (SEL) and Second Step using this overview presentation.
  • Encourage teachers to complete online training, either on their own time or on a planned service day.
  • Have elementary staff take the Implementation Preparedness Survey before school starts.
  • Engage elementary families by hosting a family night to introduce SEL and Second Step using this presentation.
  • Reinforce Second Step concepts using newsletter content and other materials available in the Principal Toolkit.
    • The elementary toolkit is available for purchase. If you’ve already purchased it, you can find a link to it in your dashboard. Learn more.

If you have a Schoolwide Middle School license, your Principal Toolkit is part of your program! Learn more.

  • Register at SecondStep.org.
  • Go through online training, accessible from your dashboard.
  • Tour online resources.
  • Teach Second Step lessons, following the suggested Scope & Sequence available by grade level.
  • Engage families, taking advantage of the family materials, which are available in both English and Spanish.
  • Work toward daily reinforcement of lesson concepts and skills, using the Downloads under the Teachers & Counselors and Program Coordinators tabs in early learning and elementary, or the resources under Extend in the Middle School Program.
  • Try Mind Yeti guided audio sessions to practice skills like self-awareness and mindfulness.

Learn more about the Principal Toolkit

The Second Step K-5 Principal Toolkit provides busy elementary principals with easy, everyday ways to make the most of the Second Step Program. By embedding Second Step concepts into school practices and policies, principals can sustain a culture of caring, learning, and achievement.

Create a Culture of Kindness

Teachers often tell us that Second Step is their secret weapon for classroom management, and when used schoolwide, it helps to create a common language around behavioral expectations that can transform school cultures.

Although we fully support ambitious goals, such as creating a positive school climate, closing achievement and equity gaps, and inspiring joyful learning, we want to remind you that it’s okay to start small and move slowly. If you need help breaking big goals into doable tasks, let us know. We’ve helped schools of every size and ethos implement social-emotional learning programs over time with great results. Small steps add up.

Many schools start with a pilot before implementing schoolwide. Gathering input and adapting along the way can increase participation. Once the staff feels comfortable teaching Second Step lessons, you can work toward integrating skills practice into daily routines.