Committee for Children Blog

Back-to-School Basics for Second Step® Programs

Students sitting outdoors with teacher.

Originally published August 2, 2018. Updated July 26, 2021.

It’s not just students who need help transitioning from summer fun to new school schedules and routines. It’s natural for adults to want 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 wisdom into three nuggets of advice that’ll help you get the new school year off to a great start.

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 the why behind your goals. This notion is popular among business leaders but works well for school leaders, too. If you want to learn more, 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 complex factors that can affect educational outcomes, such as poverty, budget cuts, or trauma.

A typical school mission statement 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 the Second Step® family of programs comes in.

Second Step social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are more than a set of classroom lessons. These programs include a wealth of tools and resources to support educators in helping students reach their full potential through SEL.

Learn more about the resources available to you by taking video tours of our website and program navigation options.

Establish Authentic Connections

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 consistently involving families. We’ve included letters and take-home materials to help explain Second Step programs and concepts and extend learning at home.

Visit our Resources for Site Leaders page to learn more about how we can support your implementation of Second Step programs during back-to-school and beyond.

Create a Culture of Kindness

Teachers often tell us that Second Step lessons are their secret weapon for classroom management and, when used schoolwide, they help 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 implement SEL programs with great results. Small steps add up.

Many schools start with a pilot before beginning a schoolwide implementation. Gathering input and adapting along the way can increase participation. Once staff feel comfortable teaching Second Step lessons, you can work toward integrating skills practice into daily routines. See our Program Roll-Out Decision Guide to help you choose the best implementation path for your school.