By Sitaara Jones, Education Writer and Former Educator | May 21st, 2020 | No Comments
Social and emotional learning has been a buzzword in the world of education for a while now and with good reason. Social and emotional learning, otherwise known and referred to as SEL, encompasses everything from understanding and managing your emotions to feeling and showing empathy for others. More importantly, SEL can also help us feel connected to one another—especially now in an age of distance learning and social distancing.
If your students have expressed a desire to be around their teachers or friends, reminisced about classroom routines, or mention missing one another, they can definitely benefit from your guidance! Keep reading for ways that you can help support their social and emotional needs and overall health and happiness while distance learning.
With so many things claiming your attention right now, it’s easy to de-prioritize the value of SEL. But fostering a positive social and emotional environment in your classroom doesn’t have to be a formal process—rather, it can happen organically as you build the following habits in to your now fully online classroom.
Beyond helping students feel connected to their peers, daily check-ins also provide you with an opportunity to get to know your students on a deeper level. I suggest selecting three questions that are quick and easy to answer and for you to review. Depending on the age of your students, one of your questions can even be gif or emoji based.
Consider starting or ending your distance learning discussion with a few simple questions such as:
This check-in should take less than 5 minutes and provide your students with a way to voice their emotions quickly and even anonymously.
With so many things up in the air, students find comfort in routines and structure no matter their age. Carrying over classroom routines into your digital classroom can help students better adjust to change and find peace in the things that feel familiar to them.
Try not to immediately dismiss classroom routines which may seem impossible to carry over on the surface—you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to virtually replicate many of them. Things like think-pair-share and other group activities can easily be adjusted to an online setting using group chats or other tools.
It’s incredibly important to continue to acknowledge the success of your students, possibly more important now than when you were in the classroom. Students are missing out on small, daily celebrations like high fives as well as monumental celebrations like graduation. So finding ways to call attention to their success is both rewarding and validating.
Consider hosting daily shoutouts for individual students and groups, emailing parents good news only reports, and taking your classroom beyond the computer screen by mailing certificates, awards, cards, or letters of congratulations to your student’s home.
Here are some ideas for using Edmodo to support SEL and positive teacher-student relationships to accomplish the above suggestions in your classroom!
Prioritizing your own social-emotional learning is just as important as doing the same for your students but can often feel more challenging. As an educator, you tend to put the needs of others first but it’s OK to set aside time to give yourself a break and care for your own mental and emotional health.
As important as having a sense of connection is for students, it’s just as important for you as well! Reach out to your network and share your experience directly with people that can relate. Working on growing your professional learning network? Now is the perfect time! Find a positive and supportive group of educators to bounce ideas off of and validate your feelings and emotions.
It’s amazing how quickly stress can force our bodies to stiffen and our jaws to clench up. Relax, take a few deep breaths, and try to take a break from it all however you can. Light a scented candle during your next class, meditate or practice mindfulness, and reflect on the positive. You’re doing a fantastic job!
Supporting your student’s social-emotional learning and health shouldn’t stop when the Zoom call ends. You can continue to foster social-emotional learning and overall wellbeing for your student by implementing a few easy practices at home.
Your typically shy or private student may need to communicate with you more now that they’ve lost the ability to engage with their peers in person. Ask questions about what they are working on, excited about, annoyed with, and how they are feeling about things overall to better empathize with everything they are going through.
Encourage your student to video chat with friends to complete assignments or find movies or other activities to support what they are learning in the classroom. Your student will be happy to connect with their peers and appreciate your support!
You’ve now added teacher to your resume, be kind to yourself and allow room for errors and hiccups along the way. You’re doing the very best that you can while juggling multiple other responsibilities. Build in time for a break (or five!) and take it easy, you deserve it!
Social-emotional learning is more important now than ever before—for all sides of the student learning spectrum. While it’s vital to establish a community that still feels connected and supportive of students, it is just as important for teachers and parents to manage their own social and emotional needs while reinforcing an environment that supports relationship building, empathy, and a deeper connection to each other. With a solid SEL plan in place, you and your students can benefit from a safe learning environment that prioritizes student success in and out of the classroom.
When you’re an educator or parent (or both), we hope these strategies help you support social-emotional learning for your students and yourself, especially when in-person connections aren’t possible. Find more strategies and resources for staying connected in our Distance Learning Toolkit.