By Cory Mueller and Dawn Reilly
Hi how are you?
Let’s think about how many times you are the sender or recipient of this cordial greeting on a daily basis. Now go further. How often do you get or give honest accounts of true feelings? The typical, superficial answer would be, “I’m fine,” but that’s not necessarily the truth. In the educational setting, we really want to know how our students are feeling because we see a direct correlation between feelings and academic performance.
From an emotional regulation perspective, not all students will enter the classroom in the green zone, which means they are ready to learn. Students may be in the blue zone (sad), yellow zone (anxious and worried), or red zone (angry and frustrated).
Children’s feelings fluctuate over the course of a day and over periods of time, all related to things in the imaginary suitcases they wheel around our school buildings. Negative childhood experiences (ACE) such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction all contribute to these roller coasters of emotions that impact academic and social performance in the educational setting.
Showing students that it is okay to express true feelings and that others really want to know how they feel is a life lesson that will lead to the development of healthy minds and provide greater access to coping strategies. So how do we do this in large classrooms with academic demands and time constraints?
A daily emotional check-in
One answer to this question that we have found successfully in the Haddon Heights School District is Closegap. The Closegap program is a free digital emotional wellness tool that provides students with a daily emotional checkup. The program helps students identify their feelings to use their coping skills and provides a way for them to communicate their needs to staff. It also provides teachers with real-time data and better understanding of students.
Closegap can be used throughout the classroom or as a tiered social-emotional learning (SEL) support for students identified by their counselors and/or teachers. This program allows educators to take the daily emotional temperatures of their students to determine which ones need additional support. Closegap has an easy-to-use website and an educator toolkit with all the materials needed for successful implementation. Educator membership is easy with this program due to its easy-to-navigate platform and positive student accounts.
Daily data is easily sorted into categories: urgent, needing assistance, and ready to go. It can be used by classroom teachers, guidance counsellors, case managers, and other educators who work with students.
Within these pre-sorted categories, educators can quickly access individual data about the student’s emotion, energy level, coping activity performed, and how the student felt afterwards. the record. During this emotional recording, students are asked how they feel, how it feels in their body, what else is going on, and what activity they would like to do to calm or energize their body. This program uses visually appealing emotional planets paired with words that teach students how to understand how they feel and why they feel the way they do.
Teaching and reinforcing positive coping strategies such as box breathing, power poses, gratitude lists, journaling, and progressive muscle relaxation helps students understand that the actions they choose to take can improve their negative feelings. The goal is to generalize these techniques in situations that take them out of the green zone. They learn that sometimes we just need to take a deep breath before that big test or remember the things to be grateful for when we’re disappointed and feel like life isn’t going our way.
Closegap is an amazing program that emphasizes early intervention, crisis intervention, building relationships with trusted adults, and emotional regulation skills. Early check-in can make the difference in students understanding their feelings, being able to deal with adversity, and fostering the mindset that it’s okay not to
Dawn Reilly and Cory Mueller are school psychologists in the Haddon Heights School District in Camden County.
Mental health matters, let’s start changing the conversation in early childhood education and be proactive. Discover Closegap on closegap.org to support the emotional health of your K-12 students!