Student Services Newsletter February 2022

SEL Focus: Responsible Decision-Makingbalanace

What is Responsible Decision-Making? The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for person, social, and collective well-being. (CASEL, 2022)

  • Demonstrating curiosity and open-mindedness
  • Identifying solutions for personal and social problems
  • Anticipating and evaluating the consequences of one’s actions
  • Reflecting on one’s role to promote personal, family, and community well-being


Student Services Newsletter February 2022


Check out this video to learn ways to teach children to make responsible decisions by developing the ability to think through all parts of a problem, analyzing a situation, understanding its ethical implications, and evaluating the consequences.


Let’s dig a little deeper….

As humans, our brains aren’t fully developed until around age 25. Those of us over 25 rely on the prefrontal cortex (the “rational” part of the brain) to make sound, responsible decisions. However, research shows children, teens, and young adults use the amygdala—the “emotional” or “reactionary” part of the brain—to make decisions. Because the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala is still a work in progress for young people, our students often base their judgements on their emotions, rather than considering long-term consequences (The Connecting Link; Stanford Children’s Health).Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 12.56.29 PM

There is good news here: we can help students strengthen the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala by supporting a student to examine the possible outcomes based on their chosen course of action. Oftentimes, children (or even grown adults) act on emotion and bypass evaluating the benefits and consequences of their actions. Leading students through the decision-making process with intention helps build capacity in their ability to make choices that best serve them and others. In doing so, we also support the student to respond (pause, evaluate consequences, and make a constructive decision that considers all parties involved) rather than react.

Here are several ways you can support students to learn and demonstrate responsible decision-making:

Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 12.58.29 PMConnect Choices Now with Future Goals – Support students to see the connection between choices and actions they are taking now with their future goals. Ask students to make a list of their favorite classes, hobbies, and other preferred activities. Have students consider career opportunities of interest that align with their lists. Give students time to research the education, training, and other commitments involved with their career choices. Discuss how the choices they make today will impact their future goals (both positively and negatively. (The Connecting Link).

Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 12.59.13 PMReflect and Use Empathy – We don’t always make the right decisions. In fact, oftentimes we learn the biggest lessons when we don’t make the best decision. Make sure you give your students freedom to make mistakes and create an open and safe space to reflect on those mistakes. Decision-making grows stronger when students have the opportunity to navigate challenging situations on their own.

Reflection Questions:

What’s the last big mistake that you made? What did you learn from it? What happened?  How was this important to you? How did your decision impact the future? 

Another useful practice is using empathy skills (from the social awareness competency) to take the opposing viewpoint in the decision-making process so the student has a greater understanding of the various perspectives and potential outcomes. Similarly, you can ask students “What advice would you give a friend?”—a great way to tap into their “inner wisdom” on a topic.

Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 1.07.53 PMIncorporate Ethics and Morals into Decision-Making – There are several factors that impact our decision-making—some of which can be useful, some of which can get in the way. Bias, the natural human tendency to favor one thing over another, can get in the way of making good decisions. Supporting students to increase their self-awareness to examine their own beliefs and biases will bolster their ability to make ethical and socially responsible decisions.  Introducing ethical dilemmas in the classroom can open up opportunities not only for debate and critical thinking, but also for personal growth, empathy for other viewpoints, and self-reflection, because students learn to navigate their own moral decision-making (Lee, 2019). Use academic content to challenge your students to think critically about their own morals and ethics. For example, examining and discussing the roles of historical figures and characters from novels, as well as people involved with current events can provide valuable teaching moments.

February is Healthy Relationships Monthhealthy relationship

Why are healthy relationships important?

Positive human connection plays an important role in maintaining our emotional-physical health, wellbeing, and growth. In fact, research has shown that positive relationships encourage us to embrace and pursue opportunities that foster a sense of purpose and meaning in life. This is primarily because of the support that comes from a healthy relationship. In the face of adversity, healthy relationships and the positive support they offer, not only buffer us from the harms of stress but allow us to flourish despite these harms.

Healthy Relationships vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Healthy relationships allow the individuals in the relationship to feel supported and connected but still feel independent. They involve honesty, trust, respect and open communication between partners and take effort and compromise from both people. Unhealthy relationships are relationships where one or more of the people involved exhibits behaviors that are not healthy and are not founded in mutual respect for the other person. Unhealthy relationships are not necessarily abusive relationships, but they can be. They also aren’t limited to romantic relationships. Unhealthy relationships include but aren’t limited to friendships and relationships with family members.

10 Ways to Have a Healthy Relationship

Healthy relationships take practice! Here are some tips for building not only healthy romantic relationships, but also friendships with peers, family, and coworkers.

  1. COMMUNICATE – Be willing to have open and honest dialogue and freely communicate emotions, problems, desires, expectations, etc. to one another.
  2. PROBLEM SOLVE – Find solutions to problems where both people feel happy and satisfied. Compromise so each person is happy with the decision.
  3. SHARE POWER – Take mutual responsibility and have equal influence on the relationship. Make decisions together.
  4. USE NON-THREATENING BEHAVIOR – Talk and act so that expressing feelings is comfortable. Act in a way that creates a safe feeling and environment.
  5. TRUST AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER – Support each other’s goals in life. Respect each other’s right to their own feelings, friends, activities and opinions.
  6. BE HONEST AND ACCOUNTABLE – Accept responsibility for oneself. Admit being wrong. Communicate openly and truthfully.
  7. ENCOURAGE PERSONAL GROWTH – Encourage individual growth and freedom. Support each other’s goals in life.
  8. NEGOTIATE AND BE FAIR – Have an argument that ends with a compromise with which both people are happy and satisfied.
  9. BE SELF-CONFIDENT – Respect each other’s personal identity. Support each other’s self-worth.
  10. GIVE AND EXPECT RESPECT – Listen without expressing judgment. Be emotionally affirming and understanding. Value the opinions of others. Have a balance of giving and receiving.


School counselors serve as advocates for students. They proactively educate students about SEL and support students with addressing social emotional issues that can serve as barriers to success in school and beyond. School counselors also work collaboratively with other stakeholders to promote an equitable learning environment where all students feel respected and valued.

Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 1.18.16 PMProfessional school counselors play a critical role in ensuring that students get opportunities to have safe, enriching experiences in and out of school, and in helping prepare students for postsecondary success — all in ways that meet their individual needs. The combination of their training and experience make them a unique and integral part of the total educational program.

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As mental health professionals, school counselors serve as leaders in school-wide SEL implementation efforts by:

  • Collaborating with classroom teachers to provide the school counseling curriculum to all students through direct instruction, team teaching, or providing lesson plans for learning activities or units in classrooms aimed at social emotional development (ASCA, 2019);
  • Providing professional development to promote a deeper understanding of SEL and Adult SEL to both staff and families;
  • Leading meetings that empower student voice (examples can include student focus groups, facilitation of courageous conversations, or restorative justice circles);
  • Collecting and analyzing data on school-wide SEL implementation efforts that includes identifying students who need additional support; and
  • Providing small groups or individual counseling sessions to students to address social emotional needs requiring intensive support.

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Learn more about school counselors here.

UPCOMING: APS Social-Emotional Learning Survey

 We invite you to visit our webpage to view survey questions, FAQ’s about and learn more about the development of the APS SEL Survey from Panorama


Social-emotional learning (SEL) describes the mindsets, skills, attitudes, and feelings that help students succeed in school, career, and life. At its core, SEL focuses on students’ fundamental needs for motivation, social connectedness, and self-regulation as prerequisites for learning. Educators may also refer to SEL as “non-cognitive skills,” “soft skills,” “21st century skills,” “character strengths,” and “whole child development.”

Social-emotional learning is an important part of a well-rounded education. A 2017 meta-analysis from CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) shows that investment in SEL has led to improved classroom behavior, better stress management, and 13 percent gains in academics.

A 2019 report from the Aspen Institute, “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope,” compiles evidence confirming that supporting students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development relates positively to traditional measures like attendance, grades, test scores, graduation rates, college and career readiness, and overall well-being. Research also shows that promoting student SEL starts with adults. In order to cultivate student SEL, caring adults in school buildings need to feel supported and validated. Adult social-emotional learning is the process of helping educators build their expertise and capacity to lead, teach, and model SEL. It involves cultivating adults’ own social and emotional competencies, wellbeing, and cultural competency, as well as a positive school climate that promotes SEL.

What does the screener measure?

The SEL screener is aligned with CASEL’s nationally recognized model for SEL, which addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. This summer, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released SEL Guidance Standards, which highlight examples of each of these competencies. Of note, key examples of social awareness include the ability to understand broader historical and social contexts’ impact on humanity, and to empathize with and show gratitude for others, including those with different and diverse perspectives, abilities, backgrounds, and cultures. Similarly, key examples of relationship skills include the ability to apply communication and listening skills to interact with others, form and maintain positive relationships, and resolve conflict constructively, and to effectively collaborate and navigate relationships while valuing different and diverse perspectives, abilities, backgrounds, and cultures.


By asking students to reflect on SEL through surveys, APS can gather actionable data to prioritize supports. Panorama’s SEL Survey helps educators measure and improve SEL in the following areas:

  1. Skills and Competencies: The social, emotional, and motivational skills that help students excel in school, career, and life. Example topics: Growth Mindset, SelfEfficacy, Social Awareness
  2. Supports and Environment: The environment in which students learn, which influences their academic success and social-emotional development. Example topics: Sense of Belonging
  3. Well-Being: Students’ positive and challenging feelings, as well as how supported they feel through relationships with others. Example topics: Positive Feelings.

LEARN MORE: Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Available to Staff & Parents

The Office of Student Services continues to be committed to training all new staff  and re-certifying staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). This is a 6-hour course that teaches how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Registration for staff is through Frontline. Parents can register by calling the Office of Student Services at 703-228-6062. Training will be provided every month for the remainder of the year.Upcoming session dates are: March 10, March 31, April 27, and May 10.

LEARN MORE: What can YOU do to prevent child abuse?

Darkness to Light is a Nation-Wide prevention and awareness program that empowers adults to prevent child abuse. The Arlington County Child Advocacy Center is hosting training sessions that are a part of the “Darkness to Light” program and are open to the public. Multiple trainings are available in either English or Spanish.

  • Stewards of Children (2 ½  hours)- Learn how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
  • Healthy Touching (1 hour)- Learn how to balance children’s needs for warmth and affection with safe, respectful ways of interacting.
  • Talking with Children about Safety from Sexual Abuse (1 hour)-  Learn to have age-appropriate, open conversations about our bodies, sex, and boundaries.
  • Bystanders Protecting Children from Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse (1 hour)- Learn to describe behavior. Set limits. Move on. Always make sure the person who has violated the boundary is willing to follow the limit you set.
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (I hour)- Learn about commercial sexual exploitation, which is a form of sexual abuse and should not be mistaken for as child’s consent.

Darkness to Light training sessions can also be scheduled and tailored for professional/ community groups on other dates and times.To register for or discuss scheduling any of these Darkness to Light trainings go to

Contact Jennifer Gross at 703-228-1561 or for more information.

Resources: CIGNA School Support Line – OPEN TO ALL

Don’t do it alone. There are many reasons to seek help. Some are common, others more serious. Either way, talk with us today if you or a family member are dealing with: Anxiety, Depression, Abuse, Eating disorders, Bullying, Self-harm, Addiction, Peer Pressure, Suicidal thoughts or anything else. No one has to be a Cigna customer to call. If you go to school, or have a child who goes to school, the School Support Line was created for you.This is a no-cost, confidential service that puts students and families in touch with mental health professionals who know how to listen, ask the right questions, and offer advice. And it’s available around the clock for you and for members of your family. 833-MeCigna (833-632-4462) We’re here 24/7/365!


Intake/Same Day Access (703-228-1560)  Beginning December 20, 2021, Same Day Access/Intakes will be scheduled through 703-228-1560. Visit our website: Children’s Behavioral Healthcare – Official Website of Arlington County Virginia Government ( for updated information on how to access mental health and substance use treatment services.

Anyone ages 21 and under experiencing an urgent mental health need is encouraged to contact CR2 (844-627-4747) and anyone experiencing a psychiatric emergency is encouraged to contact Emergency Services (703-228-5160). We will provide an intake assessment to children who are returning to the community from acute psychiatric hospitalization — please call to coordinate.

REACH – Region II (855) 897-8278  If someone you care about, who has an intellectual or developmental disability, is experiencing a crisis due to behavioral or psychiatric needs, the REACH program can help. REACH is the statewide crisis system of care that is designed to meet the crisis support needs of individuals who have a developmental disability and are experiencing crisis events that put them at risk for homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization and/or danger to self or others.

For non-urgent, but concerning behavior, access resources through Arlington Children’s Behavioral Health by clicking here

Local, Free Food Distributions

Capital Area Food Bank has several monthly food distribution sites in Arlington available for individuals and families in need. Produce is distributed for free, and no registration is required! The Capital Area Food Bank’s Community Marketplace takes place at Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 S. Dinwiddie St., on the 4th Saturday of every month at 9 a.m. Capital Area Food Bank also distributes at a Mobile Market at 700 S Buchanan St, on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. For a full list of local Mobile Market food distributions, view and share this flyer in English and Spanish, or call the information line at (202) 769-5612.