teacher helping students with schoolwork on laptops and tablets
Inside the Classroom

Reimagining How Education Technology Supports SEL

“The fact is, when you feel safe, loved, and understood, you will blossom.” Dr. Deborah Grant took these words to heart when she was tasked with building a unique education program for students with social and emotional issues within Hoover High School in Alabama. Education technology supports SEL in her classroom because it offers students the flexibility to blossom.

Offering Extra Support

hand holding a heart

New Beginnings is a school within a school. For students dealing with complicated home issues, mental health diagnoses, or gender identity concerns, it may be difficult to navigate in a public-school setting with over 3,100 students. As Dr. Grant puts it, “It’s tough to be a teenager, but if you have a mental health diagnosis, it’s even harder.” And these students were isolated, often angry, and even felt like no one knew they existed. So, with her years of mental health experience and passion for working with young adults, Dr. Grant revamped New Beginnings and serves as the “anchor of the boat.”

Education Technology Supports SEL

school whiteboard with heart and cursor

With the help of digital curriculum, Dr. Grant can offer students the flexibility to manage their social and emotional challenges. “If a student is having an anxiety attack or needs to be hospitalized, I have the flexibility to give them a down day and allow them to work at home to catch back up.” And by being in the room with the students all day every day, Dr. Grant worked to create an identity for the program, and make kids “proud to say I’m in New Beginnings.”

The fact is, when you feel safe, loved, and understood, you will blossom.

Subject matter teachers rotate in throughout the day to offer expertise in all of the core subjects and work one-on-one with the students on their particular coursework. Students from grades 9–12 are all working on the same subjects, but with content specific to their knowledge level. “I am the navigator,” says Dr. Grant, “and I deal with anyone with social or emotional issues and keep them directed.”

School within a School

blue puzzle with one yellow piece

New Beginnings gives students who struggle with self-assurance the confidence to navigate the halls with poise. The group attended a mock trial with the entire school, and many even went to prom. “My kids feel as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves,” says Dr. Grant, while still touting that the personalized care they receive gives them the self-confidence to function within the larger school. And it doesn’t stop there. Dr. Grant focuses on life skills, community service projects, and job interview practice. “When we’re out in the school, they feel like a wolf pack, so they can go into the courtyard and be fine,” says Dr. Grant.

Making the Grade

paper with A+ grade and pencil

Dr. Grant believes that “a lot of inappropriate interactions [come from] ignorance,” so she focuses a lot on multicultural awareness in her lessons about SEL. “We talk about where we came from and what’s appropriate,” and how to “self-advocate while still being appropriate to others,” says Dr. Grant. Since many of these students have dysfunctional relationships with the adults in their lives, she teaches them the correct way to speak to others. Ultimately she believes that social and emotional wellness comes from, “understanding who you are, where you came from, and what you stand for,” and helps students define that for themselves.

When the superintendent questioned the need for a program like New Beginnings, parents petitioned the school board to keep it open. And luckily, Dr. Grant was available to create the right environment for students to succeed in because education technology supports SEL. Truancy issues have resolved, as Dr. Grant will call students if they have not arrived by 9:30. “Students know they are accountable, and I care,” she says, “so attendance has gone up astronomically.” This year, five New Beginnings students are graduating from Hoover High School, and all of the students are passing their classes. “We couldn’t do what we do without a program like Edgenuity®,” says Dr. Grant, who touts the power of the flexibility provided by the online curriculum to build a customizable program for these extraordinary students.

About the Author

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Where Learning Clicks

Since 1998, Edgenuity has been creating products and services that help all students achieve their full potential. As an extension of our efforts, we also produce Where Learning Clicks to share meaningful and timely ideas about trends, developments, and changes in education, as well as how to further incorporate technology into today’s classrooms.