A.W. Becker program helping students with readiness, emotions, problem solving

Four years into the Second Step program, A.W. Becker counselors Michelle Brusic and Thomas Trainor are pleased with the progress they are seeing in the school. The program allows Brusic and Trainor to go into each classroom, every week, to teach social/emotional skills that help students show up to class ready to learn, control their emotions and solve problems. Since the program began, they say, the number of referrals at the school have gone down.

The Second Step program is a research-based curriculum with age-appropriate lessons that build from very concrete concepts in kindergarten, to more complex concepts in fifth grade, growing with the social skills of the student.

“The goal is to prepare our students to be independent,” Trainor said. “To prepare them for middle school where problems are more complex and they’re less willing to seek adult help to solve them.”

"STEP" drawn on the pavement in front of the playgroundOne action the school has taken to help students achieve this independence is the addition of step art on the playground. “STEP” is physically written on the pavement allowing students to “climb the steps” in order to resolve disputes.

S: Say the problem without blame
T: Think of solutions
E: Explore consequences
P: Pick the best solution

“The steps drawn on the playground encourage independence,” Brusic said. “Students see the steps and use them with their peers.”

“We’ve also done some training with the support staff in the building so that we are all using the same language,” Trainor added. “It’s nice to have a universal language where everyone knows the steps to go through.”

Brusic contends that the Second Step program not only teaches kids the appropriate way to manage behaviors, but also has a positive effect on how kids connect with each other.

“It’s actually changing the way we communicate with someone,” Brusic said.

Brusic and Trainor are happy with the growth they have seen in the school over the four years the program has been in place, and look forward to continuing progress in the years to come. They also appreciate the steps being taken in the middle school to continue some of the Second Step teaching, with the addition of a new Social and Emotional Learning class.