By Robbie Owens

by Robbie Owens | CBS 11

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Across North Texas, schools are searching for ways to combat what’s been dubbed the ‘Covid Slide’– academic progress lost during the pandemic.

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So at Dallas ISD’s Boude Storey Middle School, campus leaders are beginning their ‘Covid Climb’ with a campus wide acknowledgement that “emotions matter.”

“If their minds are not in it, if their minds are not ready for us to just jump into learning, they are not going to learn,” says Principal Jacqueline Rivers, “so every day we have a SEL (Social Emotional Learning) lesson just to get us started for the day.”

Tuesday’s lesson had students writing about facing discouragement.

Practicing writing skills is always a plus, but the end goal is to have students acknowledging sometimes difficult emotions.

“I feel like I’m going to be a better scholar,” shares 8th grade student Beautiful Johnson, “by not having a negative attitude and so much anger and stuff.”

That ‘stuff’ can easily get in the way of learning. So students can also join an on-campus club called ‘Good Vibes Only’.

“The club gives them that encouragement to know that they are okay with being a good student, they’re okay with being a good person and it’s okay to be positive,” says Katrina Kyse, a language arts teacher who launched the ‘Good Vibes Only’ club. Kyse says she’s already seeing the impact of positivity. “The grades [have] increased, they’re more excited about learning, they’re engaged in the learning process and they’re respectful to each other and to their teachers.”

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“It makes me a better person,” admits 13-year-old Osvaldo. “It changes my attitude, and it helps me be better at home and school.”

Club participants agree: middle school can be tough, and having a campus wide focus on good emotional health helps to cope.

“You can go talk to her and tell her how your day is going and she will give you encouraging words,” shares 8th grade student Ariel Williams.

The students are also excited about sharing those ‘good vibes’. Right now, they’re working on ‘candy grams’– handwritten notes of appreciation and encouragement that they will distribute to teachers and staff next week.

Principal Rivers is also intentional in acknowledging that the adult emotions matter as well.

“Just because we have suits on every day and we come to work with a smile, we don’t know what’s going on in the inside,” says Rivers, “and those are the people who are in front of our kids, who have to really coddle and take care of our children, to move them from where they are now, because of the pandemic, to success.”

And that success, says Rivers, is already happening.

“Our data was top notch, some of the tops in the district,” says Rivers proudly. “Those students that we are getting actively engaged, and we are taking the time to make sure that emotions matter, students are performing.”

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“I’m thankful to have this great teacher,” says 8th grade student Shantiera Turner,” that helps me get through my stuff.”