North St. Paul staff navigate students' social gaps with positivity, kindness

While there are many things to evaluate in this pandemic, one of the biggest is looking at how it has affected children's ability to socialize with one another. 

Teachers, principals and staff inside schools are the best resources for understanding how children are doing because they see it all during the back-and-forth of distance learning and in-person teaching.    

"Kids are amazing and kids are resilient, and they are doing OK. I think we’ve had to accept that OK is going to be OK," LC Webster Elementary Principal Heidi George told FOX 9. 

George says her job description has changed and stretched her in many ways, agreeing the relationship between families and school staff is stronger than ever before – something that wouldn’t have been achieved without the pandemic.   

"We as educators could not have done our job last year without families," George said. "We couldn’t get on technology, we couldn’t coordinate food, we needed families to help us all do our jobs – that was a beautiful, unintended outcome."

Darrail Hughes says he knows every name of every student, and every day he "keeps everyone’s energy up."  

LC Webster Principal Heidi George

As a Behavior Prevention Specialist in the district, it’s his job to make sure kids are doing alright.  

At the start of the school year, he noticed there was a kindness gap.  

"Kids agreed that there was a lack of kindness among themselves," Hughes said. "Kids weren’t being kind to one another, and I credit the time away, the lack of social skills, and the gap in between knowing how to be a friend."

The solution at LC Webster was to develop a game of compliments where children learn how to complement one another and the staff. Practice makes perfect, and they have the fun of earning some rewards along the way.    

According to Hughes, there’s already a big change in attitude from the beginning of the year.   

"I think it’s critical, especially for someone in my position dealing with behavior, where I could be a grouch every day," Hughes said of his approach. "That’s toxic – so for me, intentionally knowing every child’s name, they feel like they can come up and say hi like I know them."

Principal George says the key moving forward, for schools, is to meet kids where they are socially and academically as they continue to navigate through this pandemic’s hopeful end.