Eight years ago, former Austin High School teacher Keeth Matheny began traveling around the country training teachers in the social and emotional learning curriculum he developed in his Austin High School portable.
But with the coronavirus pandemic going on and kids and schools figuring out how to learn online, he recognized that everyone was talking about academics. They weren’t talking about the change and trauma students were going through.
"Before you dig into content, you better check in on kids," he says.
This time of pandemic and staying at home, he says, really highlights kids’ need for the support that social and emotional learning provides: things like stress management and how to talk about your feelings.
He revamped his curriculum for teachers through his SEL LaunchPad into a free online format called EQ in Your PJs. In two weeks, he and his son, Truman, a college freshman studying filmmaking, created four videos, plus a bonus mindfulness video, as well as worksheets to go with them. His 15-year-old daughter helped with the worksheets.
Originally designed for teachers and districts to use for grades sixth through 12th, parents can use them as well.
The videos and worksheets were all tooled with the current coronavirus situation acknowledged, but he says to engage kids, "it’s light; it’s dad-jokey." That’s how he gives them a hook to do the learning.
The videos aren’t long, typically three to five minutes each, and the worksheets include a section to read and then fun games such as word searches. The answer to the last question on each workshop includes the password for the next video.
The videos and worksheets are being subtitled as well as translated into Spanish. School districts around the country began using it Monday.
A separate parent version is being rolled out that will have family projects such as creating a family schedule filled with activities that make you resilient such as exercise, healthy eating and sleep; doing mental health hopscotch using chalk and a sidewalk with good mental health activities in each square; and building connections with people in your lives who might be feeling disconnected.
All of it is being delivered for free on the educational resource School Connect’s blog: school-connect.blog/eq-in-your-pjs.
The EQ in Your PJs site also has mental health resources as well as the videos and worksheets.
Matheny has had to deliver social and emotional learning curriculum in tough times. Last summer, he was training teachers and counselors in El Paso when the shooting at Walmart happened. He and the counselors took a picture at the El Paso Strong sign. And when they found out that his next training would be in Allen — the home of the shooter — they sent that school district a message of love and support.
And then the Allen teachers sent back a video message to El Paso of peace, love and support.
That moment was when Matheny decided to go full time with teaching teachers, and now parents, how to provide lessons in social and emotional learning.
Right now, he says, "Kids are really going to need supports."