- Parma City School District
Parma Park Elementary safety plans teach important social and emotional skills
May 4, 2020
Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, count to 10 or think of your happy place in times of stress, anxiety and high emotions.
Students and staff at Parma Park Elementary School practiced these social-emotional and coping skills through the creation and implementation of safety plans this school year.
“The idea of the safety plan is that we all get angry, overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated, but what is the safety plan in the school in terms of finding little things we can do during the day to help us through those times,” Parma Park Principal Wendy Jewell explained. “This is teaching self-regulation skills.”
“Ultimately our job revolves around student learning, but what I know for sure is that kids can’t learn academics when they are thinking about all other kinds of things,” she further shared. “To improve achievement, we have to recognize and teach kids social-emotional skills. Then we will see kids take off in their learning.”
Every student, teacher and staff member has individualized safety plans that they wear every school day with ways to calm down that work specifically for them.
Safety plans first started with staff during a professional development day. Jewell believed that the staff needed to take time to focus on self-care.
“To take care of our students, we first need a healthy staff,” she expressed.
The school generated interest among students by the staff talking about their safety plans and how safety plans work.
“What I have asked teachers to do is model it for students,” Jewell described. “Just like we model instruction for students, we need to model behaviors. I also believe we need to provide students the opportunity to practice it throughout the day before they have to use it. That is a key component to the success of this.”
Students then created their own plans, which are just a few simple, little things they can do when they feel upset and emotional to get through that moment.
“This gives everyone the chance to stop and think why they are feeling this way and calm down,” shared Amanda Schweter fourth-grade teacher at Parma Park. “While we were making them, students were very open about stress and things that make them nervous or anxious. It has been really helpful to have these conversations in my classroom.”
Schweter added that she had discussions with her class about what it feels like to be calm, so when they are emotional, they can get their minds and bodies back to that calm state.
To find that calm state, students, like fourth-graders Dexter Butram and Melanie Rivera-Lough, not only wrote how to calm down but also included photos, stickers and drawings that make them happy.
“I put take a deep breath, close my eyes and think of a happy place because that is what calms me down,” Dexter explained. “I also put a picture of a tiger, monkeys, grizzly bear, deer, fish and coyote because those are my favorite animals and remind me of my family.”
“I wrote on mine count to 100, drawing, think about animals, drink water, ask for help, reading, writing, take a deep breath, and take a walk,” Melanie shared about her safety plan. “Some of the stickers I put were jewels, emojis, sandals, animals and colors because they help me to relax and they help me calm down.”
“I had a lot of fun making mine,” she added. “It makes you think of stuff that helps you calm down. You do start using it when you get upset. You do calm down and make good choices. I think the school should keep doing this because for new students, it could help them a lot if they learn how to do it, know what it’s for and start using it.”
Schweter said she has seen a difference in her classroom and the school’s home liaison, Lisa Eland, has seen safety plans produce a positive result among all students.
“What I think is wonderful is that it normalizes that we all have these feelings and it helps us see that there are things that we can do to help ourselves,” Eland shared. “This allows kids to find success in knowing what they can do to make themselves or the situation better. It isn’t a weakness to talk about what’s going on and to figure out a way to improve, it’s actually a strength.”
PHOTO CAPTION: An example of some of the safety plans made by students and staff at Parma Park Elementary School. The plans hang on a lanyard so everyone can access these tips and ideas easily.