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A Listening Ear and Technology Serve as Crutch for Social and Emotional Support in Research Triangle Community

As the field of education adjusts to a new way of instructing and engaging with students and families, educators are having to get creative with how they support families.

Meet Jacquetta Williams, MSW, who is in her sixth year as a social worker at Research Triangle Charter Academy. Since the original shutdown in March 2020, Williams began to rethink her existing approach, while also helping students and staff navigate the changes presented by the pandemic.

Social and emotional learning is just as important as academics. The pandemic further illuminated the need for emotional well-being resources.

“It is important to address their emotional needs because it gives you the opportunity to look at the student, parent, and the teacher as a whole,” Williams shared. “You can’t be successful academically without addressing all the different components. If you’re having a bad day, it can affect how you do on a test or how you do in a classroom setting. You have to look at the student and teacher as a whole and help them be their best self.”

One of the ways Williams prioritized the emotional well-being of her staff was implementing an end of week check-in. School staff were invited to complete a list of a questions at the end of each week in order for school leaders and herself to know how they did and how they felt about the week.

The questionnaire asked a variety of questions, including how they did with teaching remotely, how they felt about their success, and if they have any concerns or worries, which can be regarding school or their personal life.

She didn’t stop there.

In order to best support the needs of all, she created a Research Triangle School Social Work Services website. The website includes information about herself, student, parent, and staff resources, and ways to contact her. Distance has not stopped her from lending emotional support to her school community.

Williams has a portal where students can message her, ask questions, and fill out an open template of what they want to talk about. “A lot of the kids just want to see my face, share what they’ve been up to, and talk about their feelings,” she said. “Students are just missing the connections of being in the building with their peers.”

One technology resource that has been a game-changer for Williams is Centervention®, which provides online games to help students in kindergarten through eighth grade improve social and emotional skills. These games are fun for students, automatically gather data so educators can monitor progress, and include supplemental lessons to reinforce learning. Through this platform, educators can meet students where they are, address their unique needs, and do so in a fun, effective way.

“People have been transparent about being overwhelmed and they don’t really know how to process their feelings without shutting down,” said Williams. “Giving them an outlet has been super helpful.”

It’s the act of lending a listening ear to those in need that has shown to be life-giving for Research Triangle students, families, and staff.