Never Would Have Thought...

Sandy Johnson · June 24, 2020

How many of us ever would have thought we would close schools and teach our students remotely? The last 3 months of the 19-20 school year will be memorable, but for an unusual reason. It became even more important for us to reinforce our connections with our students and the importance of continued SEL teaching. We can continue our school focus with the use of PurposeFull People in the classroom and online.

Clara Barton Elementary, the school at which I teach, is in year two of existence with Social Emotional Learning as one of our mission pillars. Our principal Karen Barker opened our school with her vision of how to support student learning and families through SEL, Service, and Equity. We couldn’t find an elementary program to support our SEL mission, so we decided to take our counselor’s program and modify the content to fit the classroom adding Peace Corners and Zones of Regulation.


"I think PurposeFull People is a very good program. It is inspiring kids to think about what kind of person they want to be. Every day kids spend 10 minutes to know about each positive and important trait, and connect them to their life. It's like planting a seed inside the kids, little by little the seed will grow and eventually become part of the child, that is what we as parents wish to see in the long run. It’s good to start when the kids are young.” A Clara Barton Parent

This year, we have PurposeFull People. We have in place a building agreement on how to implement PurposeFull People after attending the two-day training. We teach it every day using the S.E.R.V.E model in the following way: S -start intentionally on Monday, E – engage rationally on Tuesday, R-respond with empathy and V- Values practiced consistently on Wednesday, and E – exit intentionally on Friday. We hold grade level Leadership Lab on Wednesday mornings. Leadership Lab is the whole grade level together at one time being led by grade level teachers facilitating the learning together. To work to make a connection to what middle school would be for our 5th graders, that team made “houses” that mixed students up among the classes to work together. Our student survey statistics show students are more engaged in school, feel supported, valued, safe, and know how to share their emotions. We see the benefits of purposeful relationship building, and common language throughout our school in all our environments and we were excited to do our end of year survey with students to mark additional changes, but we went into remote learning before we could collect that data.





As we teach from a distance, our school wants to be sure that we continue our PurposeFull teaching. Our current remote teaching model is that each grade level uses the resources available to us in the Character Strong online library to continue SEL teaching. Our parents already receive the parent/family letter that explains the focus of the month, and now see firsthand the learning that happens now that students participate through our OneNote class notebooks and video class meetings. We use the links to videos, quotes, and pictures to elicit responses that include drawing, writing, and discussions at home and class meetings. Teachers share links to the suggested read aloud for the week and some are doing personal recordings of the suggested books and students share their comments with their classmates or comment on the OneNote notebooks. 

“I showed COURAGE today when I had a haircut done by my dad at home” 1st grader

Now that we have a system in place for in person and remote teaching, we are more prepared for next year and whatever form of instruction and learning we have coming our way.

"I admire doctors because they show COURAGE by still doing their work when there is coronavirus" Clara Barton Student

Our next steps are to continue with our PurposeFull People knowing that each grade level has different resources on the same trait. Our SEL team’s next work is to add to our foundation of Social Emotional Learning the process of restorative justice. We have been researching best practices to implement with our staff who all are passionate about this work. We will take into consideration how 19-20 ended to address the trauma of being removed from each other abruptly, focusing on reconnecting and re-establishing relationships and our school purpose and beliefs. We will treat it as a modified introduction year coupled with students’ knowledge from the previous year. One thing we know is that our families agree on the importance of Social Emotional Learning. These skills are the first ones to teach and learn before we can do any academic learning.

Our connections with students through online class meetings and individual connections during the period of remote learning and teaching, reminds us of the importance of relationship building no matter the platform – in person or online. Our experience reinforces our school’s platform of Social Emotional Learning and PurposeFull People gives us the consistency to do that work.

"At first loading the dishwasher to help my mom was challenging but using PERSEVERANCE has helped it get easier." -Kiran Clara Barton Student

I love that she teaches her younger sisters about PERSEVERANCE, COURAGE, and KINDNESS. Even when I make mistakes and get upset sometimes, she tells me," it's ok everybody makes mistakes, persevere mommy." A Clara Barton Parent

“PurposeFull People focuses on our mission of SEL and relationship building and the easy to use guide helps us continue this work while teaching remotely.” Clara Barton Teacher



Sandy Johnson

Sandy is a first grade teacher and SEL committee chair at Clara Barton Elementary School in the Lake Washington School District. She is part of a team of teachers focused on SEL, Equity and Service Learning as the pillars of their school. Clara Barton use PurposeFull People as the foundation of their work with students, families, and staff. Sandy is passionate about the importance of SEL and how it drives the success of everyone in the community. She has been teaching for 21 years and was a para professional for 7 years while getting her masters in teaching. She lives in Carnation, WA with her husband, 3 dogs, and is the mother of two sons.