Teachers at Columbia Elementary “Demonstrate” SEL Skills to Their Students Every Friday Morning – Rain or Shine!

By Karen Jump

At Columbia Elementary, we realize the importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and are working to build rapport with students before they enter our doors.

One aspect of SEL is relationship skills, initiating and sustaining positive relationships with students, parents, and the community.

Kindergarten teacher Laura Hester and I saw a Twitter challenge from Emily Paschall (Assistant Principal at Cedar Hill Elementary in Athens City) to do something distinctive on Friday mornings to welcome students to school. We thought this was a great idea.

Emily is right, of course. So many of our students come to school tired, hungry, or just aren’t prepared to start the day. We have the potential to add some smiles in their lives.

We began brainstorming ideas of how to welcome students to school on Friday mornings. Laura had known someone who held up encouraging signs around his community to encourage passers-by. That sparked an idea!

(L to R) Eliza Lemus (4th), Laura Hester (K), Christina Willett (K), Renee Graham (2nd), Casey Gaines (K), Alyson Durrett (4th), Karen Jump (3rd)

We Took to the Streets and Hallways

Shannon Triolo (5th grade)

We made posters with inspiring messages, then sent out an email to the school asking for teachers and staff members who wanted to participate. Each Friday morning, we stand inside our school, in front of our school, on the side of the road, and in our car line welcoming students to school.

We love to see buses of students pull up each Friday morning. Students get excited to see us and they start waving. Students say that the signs make them feel welcome, warm on the inside, confident, and proud.

One fifth grade student, Tatum, said “the signs make me happy and ready to start the day. They help me to know that I can achieve great things.” Her fellow fifth grader Josiah said that when he sees the signs in the morning it makes him feel “like I can do anything.”

Parents like it too!

Eliza Lemus (4th grade)

We have found this simple activity not only is building relationships with our students, it is building  relationships within parents and other adults within our community.

One of our Columbia Elementary School parents, Amanda Kuepker, posted this:

“Mornings can be tough but as I drove through carline this morning I couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion. Our teachers were lining the road, in the freezing cold, with words of encouragement. Our stars can’t shine without you and Share your Happy, among other things. I know my babies are loved when they are at school with these amazing teachers and today they loved me as well.”

I think the one surprising aspect of this that we have found is what a motivator and inspiring idea it has become for us as a faculty and staff.

Renee Graham (2nd grade)

To get to school early each Friday morning for our #faceliftFriday activity can be a challenge and the weather hasn’t always cooperated.

But what we have learned is that we can grow a sense of community, we can build a stronger bond among our teachers, and we feel enthusiasm and eagerness to start our day after holding up our signs each Friday morning and welcoming our kids to another day of great learning.

Feature image: Colleen Johnson (3rd grade)

Karen Jump teaches third grade at Columbia Elementary in the Madison (AL) City Schools. Orginally from Cullman, Karen holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s from the University of North Alabama (UNA) and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She began teaching at Columbia when the school opened in 2004 and has taught 3rd and 4th grade. Her two children, Leah and Eli, are both students at Columbia.