• A Full Value Response to COVID-19 in our Schools


    The world as we once knew it, has been upended in ways we can only begin to comprehend. Children, educators, families, and communities have been traumatized. Normal routines have been disrupted. Civility has worn thin around mask mandates, vaccinations, and time spent in school or virtual classrooms. While educators are focused on academic regression and recoupment, the issue of emotional wellness and its well-researched connection to academic progress is still languishing. The research tells us that without emotional wellness academic progress is compromised.


    Using Full Value Behavioral Norms, and the activity-based implementation strategies to repair the affective trauma being experienced in our schools will be the focus of this article. Full Value is a systematic approach to social emotional learning, providing common language and methods, K-12, across all educational settings from the classroom to the cafeteria.


    The six behavioral norms that form the bedrock of Full Value are:

    Be Here

    Be Safe

    Be Honest

    Set Goals

    Let Go and Move On

    Care for Self and Others

    These norms dovetail with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) core competencies. CASEL is the leading collaborative authority on research-based social emotional learning programs. We have highlighted the work of CASEL to demonstrate how the Full Value Schools model aligns with what they define as critical needs and effective interventions. These competencies are directly supported by the Full Value Behavioral Norms with significant crossover, as indicated in the table below:








    Be Here

    Self-Management, Social Awareness

    Be Safe

    Social Awareness, Self-Awareness

    Be Honest

    Relationship Skills

    Set Goals

    Responsible Decision Making

    Let Go & Move On

    Self-Awareness, Self-Management

    Care for Self & Others

    Self-Management, Relationship Skills, Social Awareness


    Beyond the CASEL competencies, the six Full Values embrace the essential social emotional Learning (SEL) components of trust, presence, commitment, mindfulness, physical and emotional safety, giving and receiving feedback, defining and achieving measurable goals, and relinquishing anger and hurt to maintain meaningful relationships, and generativity.


    The Full Value School: Response to Trauma 

    Trauma can be defined as either single or multiple deeply distressing experiences. COVID-19 has and continues to be a perfect manifestation of this definition. At the core of trauma is feeling the loss of emotional safety: “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives” (Van der Kolk, 2014, pg. 352).2 

    Anyone working in education is aware of the profound impact trauma may have on ourselves, our colleagues, and especially our students. Traumatic experiences scar students with a sense of losing control and an inability to respond to the world competently. These experiences can be one-time events or ongoing exposure to an environment that induces fear and an overall feeling of being unsafe. Trauma doesn’t just impact our thoughts and feelings but also our bodies. People suffering from PTSD develop nervous systems that remain on high alert that can be triggered at any moment and by seemingly innocent stimuli. Being on guard impacts how we process information, learn, and relate to others and leaves many hyper-vigilant and drained. Unresolved trauma lingers under the surface of many people’s psyches and can surface without warning. 

    A common reaction to trauma is disassociation, which is an attempt to cope through distancing oneself from emotions, thoughts, feelings, or even one’s own body. The table below provides an overview of how the Full Value Behavioral Norms can address the impact of trauma.


    Impact of Trauma

    Full Value Offering


    Be Here: Offers the experience of being in the present moment with sensations, emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness is the opposite of dissociation.

    Loss of Safety

    Be Safe: Offers the experience of physical and emotional safety. The student is empowered to co-create their environment.

    Loss of Trust

    Be Honest: Offers the opportunity to develop authentic relationships by speaking their truth and having the permission to have their needs met.

    Loss of Control

    Set Goals: Offers the opportunity to gain a sense of control through intention and purpose. The goal setting process offers the student the chance to ask for support from others.


    Let Go & Move On: Offers the permission and practice to move on from the things we cannot change or that just don’t work.

    Loss of Self-Worth

    Care for Self & Others: Offers the student the opportunity and permission to practice self-care. This agreement also offers the opportunity to practice and receive empathy and compassion.


    At the core of many children’s mental health issues is the experiencing of trauma. In a study conducted by the Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health (2013), it was estimated that nearly thirty-five million children between the ages of 0-17 had experienced one or more episodes of severe trauma in their families. This is close to half of our nation’s children. According to Dr. Christina Bethell, Professor, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University:


    If more prevention, trauma-healing, and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health, and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness.3


    As noted, the study indicates that building resilience serves to inoculate students against many of these catastrophic outcomes. Full Value provides a systemic culture and climate to support resiliency. This includes the development of behavioral norms (co-creation), providing opportunities for students to make choices about how they participate in the program (Challenge of Choice), control and empowerment through goal setting, and a forum for discussing issues and celebrating successes within a nurturing and supportive group process (Calling Group).


    How Full Value Can Help 

    Full Value is not just for the easy times, the good times, the normal times. And these are certainly not normal times. So, we’ve put together some thoughts regarding the social emotional impact of COVID-19 and how the Full Value Behavioral Norms can be helpful in successfully navigating this crisis. For those of you who are not familiar with the six Full Value Behavioral Norms, their meaning will become apparent as you read through each of the following sections. 

    BE HERE 

    Attention in a classroom is an increasingly elusive commodity and exacerbated by COVID-19. On- line attention, with all of the distractions of being at home, compounds the problem. Committing to Be Here asks that we focus on participating despite all distractions. A preschooler being present in class is very different from the presence of a high school student. Yet at any level working on being here, wherever you are, is where education begins. Being present fosters engagement with others and leads to active listening, contributions, and learning. These skills are essential to reestablishing a community of learners. Being present during these unique times means listening to your inner needs and concerns, and also paying attention to the needs and concerns of those around us. This means multi-tasking is out! 

    Be Safe 

    The violation of the physical and emotional safety of students in schools is commonplace. This may take the form of bullying, humiliation, intimidation, harassment, rejection, coercion, cliques, and gangs. COVID-19 has created a novel crisis of trust. This manifests as disputes about individual choices that are made concerning masking, vaccinations, and social distancing. Learning about who and what to trust provides strategies for surviving these issues of emotional and physical safety. There are degrees of trust, of course. Trust is relational, building connections with other people. 

    Be Honest 

    Striving for compassionate honesty in the communication of thoughts and feelings is the focus of this behavioral norm. For communication to be effective, honesty must permeate all aspects of individual and group communication. However, there is a caveat to this. Honesty can be used for less than honest intentions. There may be an agenda to humiliate the recipient with negative feedback to gain power and influence. Brutal honesty may be an act of revenge for perceived slights or humiliation. When offered in a caring way, honest feedback provides an invaluable perspective to the recipient who can then better hear it without becoming defensive. Honest feedback must always be offered with the intention of encouraging growth or it becomes a violation of the receiver’s emotional safety. The essential question is, “Will my feedback help my classmate to grow?” With regard to COVID-19, permission to speak one’s truth is essential, while also honoring the perspective of others. Courage is a crucial component because honesty can mean you are not sure you are right and are willing to say, “I think this, but I could be wrong.” We should always strive to be compassionately honest. 

    Set Goals 

    The ability to set clearly stated personal and professional goals is the basis for a fulfilled life. Unfortunately, all too often students find themselves exiting their senior year with either an ill-defined set of goals or on a trajectory to fulfill someone else’s plan for their future. Goal setting includes brainstorming, planning, and learning to make informed choices. Setting and achieving goals is a primary life experience.  Persistence is also a significant, learned attribute. Sumner Redstone said, “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”5 While experiencing success is essential to maintaining motivation, experiencing failure and learning from it is also necessary. The balance between success and failure provides students with necessary learning experiences. Goal setting should result in an honest assessment of what the student wants to achieve, how to get there, knowing when you’ve been successful, and what internal and external supports will be necessary. This last point holds excellent growth potential for it empowers the student to ask for help from others as an essential step in goal achievement. The honing of goal setting skills has ramifications for working collaboratively in all future endeavors with family, friends, and in the employment setting. The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in people feeling increasingly vulnerable and overwhelmed. What better time to practice asking for help when setting goals for the near and far term? 

    Let Go & Move On 

    Let Go & Move On provides opportunities to practice the skill of working with others when there is anger, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings. It means to co-exist even when one disagrees, which facilitates working toward a common goal. In some instances, this provides an opportunity to practice forgiveness. But in situations where one can’t or won’t forgive there is often still the need to get along, work together, and share responsibilities. This is true in schools, in the community, and for families. It also means accepting that change is inevitable and often beyond our control. Family dynamics are altered by something as joyous as the coming of a new baby, to the loss of a parent. In the work setting the retirement of a beloved leader can breed resentment and destructive behavior toward a successor. The shifting sands of popularity in the classroom can cause a student to feel newly accepted or rejected. Acceptance of change requires letting go of what was or will be and making healthy choices around how to work effectively within changed circumstances. COVID-19 has brought out noble and ignoble behaviors in people, whether it be fractious board meetings, overly personalized exchanges involving parents, students, and educators, or conflictual communications via social media. However, this too shall pass, and all groups will need to find a way to let go and move on. 

    Care for Self & Others 

    Caring for others involves compassion and empathy. Caring is reflected in listening and responding, following through to completion (it is one thing to want to do something, quite another to get involved enough to do it), compassionate reaching out to a group member who feels out of place, coping with excluding and judgmental language, honoring the commitments and insights of others, and understanding and responding with feeling. 

    Caring for self (i.e., being attentive and responsive to self needs, as distinguished from vanity) is also a reflection of empathy. It is challenging to teach self-care if the teacher is not practicing it. 

    Educators and other service providers are notorious for ignoring their own needs, impacting their physical and emotional health, and compromising their ability to work effectively with students. Empathic self-care encompasses the whole definition of the word. Unfortunately, the time and emotional pressure of doing a job that seemingly has no end, with demands to serve on every level, can cause educators to make poor choices in this regard. Maintaining a daily ritual of self- care that allows for no distractions is a solution. A strategy to maintain the ritual is to have at least one fellow professional commit to being a “care buddy,” a person to check in with, if only as a reminder that one isn’t alone. 

    Because of the pandemic, veteran teachers are leaving the profession, many are taking extensive sick time, and new teachers are not entering the profession. While this is a form of caring for self, it does not resolve the ambivalence that educators experience; loving the profession while being immersed in anxiety. Recognizing this dilemma and finding ways to collaboratively address it can be found through the implementation of Full Value processing and Commitment tools.

    Implementation Methods 

    The Full Value Commitment: The Full Value Commitment can be a written document, comprised of pictures and symbols, or a combination of both. It is co-created by students with facilitation by educators, who also contribute to the Commitment. The Commitment defines what each of the Full Value Norms will look like, as represented by student behaviors in the classroom. Written around the outside of the Commitment are distractors that can get in the way of achieving agreed upon norms. Teachers, administrators, and students can all create a Full Value Commitment either around a common theme (e.g., for teachers: How do we use the Full Value Behavioral Norms to support each other during this time of crisis, what behaviors (distracters) will get in the way of our success)?

    Setting Goals: Full Value utilizes a simple goal setting process that asks the following: What do I want to accomplish?

    What actions am I willing to commit to getting there?

    What help will I need from my colleagues, peers, etc. to achieve my goal? How will I measure my success?


    These four elements can be applied to short or long-term goals and can be individual or group in nature. Their application to COVID-19 generated problems is manifest.


    Control to Empowerment 

    This construct is represented by a Likert Scale with 1 being complete teacher control of the classroom to 10, where students have almost complete decision-making authority concerning regulating behaviors in the classroom. Students operating at a 10 have mastered self-regulation, are adhering to the classroom Full Value Commitment, and consistently practice the 6 Full Value Behavioral Norms. The higher up on the scale the students can function mean more time for instruction with less time wasted on repetitive and, therefore, ineffective disciplinary methods. The educator controls the process. Students do not gain autonomy on this scale until they demonstrate the readiness to do so.


    Calling Group 

    Below are described types of groups we recommend students use as they begin this practice. Students may eventually add to this list or change the names to better meet their needs. These groups are a tool for students (or educators) to monitor their adherence to their Full Value Commitment. 

    Information: This group is called for when there is a need for clarification. Information groups may be looking for an understanding regarding the actual problem that they are addressing. It may also be used to clarify who is taking on what roles to solve the problem. When there is some factual confusion, this group helps in developing a more straightforward path to understanding. 

    Celebration: This group is called to acknowledge the accomplishments of an individual, individuals, or the entire class. Many times, individual students have contributed to the groups’ goals and success without any acknowledgment. This group not only allows recognition but also encourages participation from all students. 

    Feelings: This group is called to check in on students’ emotional needs and well-being. This is not a therapy or encounter group. Instead, it is a gathering that allows students to express their feelings and for the group to understand how everyone is faring. This expression develops empathy and compassion in students and helps them know how members may be impacted by the group’s interactions. 

    Growth: This group is called to develop direction and to establish mutually agreed upon goals. It would also be helpful for educators to become familiar with the concept of a growth mindset to assist in this process. Both of these processes help develop more realistic and achievable goals that are growth oriented and not rigid. 

    Feedback: This group is called to provide students an opportunity to provide growth-oriented feedback to each other. Feedback should be viewed as a way to assist the group and individual members in reaching their goals. This is not about constructive criticism or any type of criticism. Instead, the Full Value Commitment’s behaviors and distractors should serve as a guide for delivering effective feedback. 

    Outcome: This group is called to come to a resolution around whatever issue the students are grappling with. Resolution usually results in action which could mean a change in behavior, acceptance of responsibility, a new set of goals for individuals, a change in operating norms, or apologies. 

    In reading through this material, you may conclude that deploying a systematic SEL program is hard work. There is no way around it, it is! But the rewards are manifest and life changing. Socially appropriate behaviors need to be practiced repetitively and linked to an authentic experience with carryover into the home where at all possible. Students need to be active participants in defining what pro-social behaviors look and feel like or the result will be reduced to another set of externally imposed rules. The commitment students make to social emotional learning must become integrated into all interactions throughout the school, inseparable from any academic content area. 

    Of equal importance is the extent to which school staff agrees to embrace and live the commitments they have co-created with their students. While it is recognized that authority remains invested with the adults, teachers must strive to empower students to self-regulate and have a voice whenever possible. When a Full Value School is implemented with fidelity, teachers find that they have much more time to do what they love to do, teach. This happens by creating a truly collaborative effort with students and the concomitant release from the stressful, repetitive, and ineffective disciplinary hamster wheel. 

    COVID-19 has presented educators with some unique challenges. However, this does not dramatically shift the focus of the response which involves elevating the importance of social emotional learning to equivalent status with academics. The affective fallout from COVID-19 and the effect on the school and community should serve as the Canary in the Coal Mine, teaching us that without pervasive, supported, comprehensive social emotional support, students will not thrive.



    For further information on Full Value Schools, please contact Ms. Diane Digiuseppe, Superintendent of School, Kinnelon, NJ at digiusepped@kinnelon.org, or Dr. Richard Maizell, Director of Full Value Communities, LLC at info@fullvaluecommunities.org or visit their website at www.fullvaluecommunities.org.




    1Core SEL Competencies. (2019). Retrieved from https://casel.org/what-is-sel/ 

    2van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking. 

    3Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (2013). “Overview of Adverse Child and Family Experiences among US Children.” Data Resource Center, supported by Cooperative

    Agreement 1‐U59‐MC06980‐01 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Available at www.childhealthdata.org. Revised 5/10/2013. 

    4McSpannen, K. (2015, May). You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. Time Mag 

    5Sumner Redstone Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved April 17, 2019 from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/sumner_redstone_227812


    Note: Much of this material is drawn from: 

    Maizell, R., Schoel, J. with John Grund. (2019). The Full Value Schools: A Social Emotional Learning Community. Full Value Communities, LLC.