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Educator Spotlight: Social-Emotional Learning: Teaching it when students aren't in school

Happy Friday Beautiful People! we made it through another week, kudos to all of us!! I am ending this week with the focus on my fellow educators...

So many students are grappling with this massive change to their academic lives as a result of this pandemic with schools closed for a significant amount of time to ward off (at least attempt) the spread of the coronavirus. Let's add that to the fear that this pandemic has proven countless times that no one is immune to this; either someone close to you or someone you know has contracted this virus.

More than ever, our students need the coping skills to adjust to this "abnormal new normal" that will likely reach beyond the school year.

So I pose these questions, should SEL (Social Emotional Learning) be the focus of our teachers as they work through this new territory of remote learning? How can teachers foster students' social-emotional skills when there is no physical classroom for the time being?

To the first question, I say yes. I can't think of a more critical time than now to weave social-emotional learning into the work that is being done. Can we all agree that for a number of our students, there is a heightened level of anxiety; some are experiencing difficulty navigating technology, others are concerned about their grades and there is a subset of students to which school provided a level of stability that for whatever reason home life can't. When you take into account all of these issues our students face, they find themselves in fight or flight mode; if this is where the mindset is at, how in the blue hell are they going to learn??

To the second question, though teachers are not in a school building, there are a few things teachers can do that will reinforce SEL characteristics in our students without feeling the burden of having to "teach" an additional lesson.

The check-in. This strategy is a powerful way to engage and see (or hear) where your student is at. Something as simple as asking them to describe how they are feeling based on the weather or having them use an emoji to gauge their emotional barometer gives you an insight into their current feelings and the opportunity for deeper conversation if need be.

Virtual community time. For those teachers who are able to communicate with their students through video chat, institute a "virtual community circle" at least once a week; This will allow students to have the space to convey what they are thinking and feeling with there peers. This may not be the traditional community circle but we are in a non-traditional situation.

Journaling. For our older students, journals can be a therapeutic way of having them express their thoughts on paper. It can be a weekly writing prompt or designating a time to just free write, journaling not only fosters solid writing skills it can provide an outlet for students. It is a helpful way of expressing emotion as well as an artifact to look back on.

While it is important to talk to students about what is going on in the world and how it is impacting them, we don't want to overload them with information that can kick up stress; our role is to be sensitive; listen to what they are expressing and provide as much guidance and support you possibly can. When students are able to model this behavior from us; they are exercising their social-emotional growth.

"Our most important task as a nation is to make sure all our young people can achieve their dreams"

-Barack Obama

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