These resources provide practices for families and educators to support learning and well-being for young people in kindergarten through college.
Whatever model of instruction our students are receiving this year, there will be one constant. Social-emotional learning (SEL) needs of students will be higher than ever.
The education community, in its efforts to keep students physically safe, must not ignore or minimize their mental health. Many of our students have been out of school buildings for nearly half of a calendar year. Despite continuing to learn virtually, the social norms and expectations they have adhered to since February or March have likely been different from those that will be expected when they return.
Engaging in SEL has become essential to support our student community if we are looking for any successful learning this year. Following are some strategies and resources to support educator to meet the SEL needs of students this challenging year.
SEL for Educators –Young people take cues from us adults. Social-Emotional Learning SEL is not just teaching young people those skills, but first and foremost, we model those skills.
We as educators should be aware that how we regulate ourselves, how we demonstrate curiosity, how we problem solve, and how we deal with unpredictable moments all those are as important as anything that we are going to teach. So, we must start with ourselves first. With SEL, we build on our capacity for social-emotional learning. As educators, we realize that daily in micro-moments the impact that we have on the lives of our young people.
Step 1 – Take Care of Yourself.
Teacher well-being has experienced a “steep decline” in recent months, with 71% of teachers reporting lower morale levels compared to pre-pandemic levels. As the adage goes, “you cannot serve from an empty cup.” If we want our students to succeed, we need to ensure that our teachers are taken care of. Not only is teacher stress contagious, resulting in higher stress levels for students, but it also passes through as lower academic performance for students. For any of us to provide that safe, stable, and nurturing environment for the children that we serve, we must practice self-care so that we can be available. Make your mental health a priority and seek help. We need to learn mindfulness to improve our self-awareness and emotional intelligence, seek counseling to support ourselves, and team up with colleagues to form support groups.
Step 2 – Offering SEL to Students in Distance Learning.
In a distance-learning format, we need connection. In an online learning environment, the psychological and emotional distance between the teachers and students increases, eroding the critical social context that is fertile soil for learning. We will need to make special efforts to create a sense of community in our virtual classrooms. As teachers, we may have to strive to communicate more regularly and more informally with students. The goal is not just to address academic issues, but to demonstrate that the teacher is personally interested and invested in each student.
Here are some of the strategies and resources that we can use to build a connection with our students:
- Use the unstructured time to chat at the beginning of class.
- Try Zoom’s “waiting room” feature to welcome kids to class one by one.
- Use breakout rooms to split students into small groups for show-and-tell, two truths and a lie, or other relationship-building exercises.
- At the end of the day, ask students to reflect on their learning with discussion prompts or a closing activity like appreciation, apology, or aha!
- Pose fun questions like “What is your favourite movie?” in your all-class video tool, or on digital whiteboards like Jamboard or Padlet, and have students share out.
Step 3 – Offering Grief and Loss Counseling for Students:
Our students have missed out on meaningful life experiences in the past six months. Cancelled school events and athletic seasons and long separations from family and relatives are losses that deserve our acknowledgement. For students who depend on School, their grief may stem from the loss of access to socialization, friendships, learning and affection. Students will also undoubtedly experience feelings of loss surrounding what the upcoming school year will look like. No longer able to sit shoulder to shoulder with peers at lunch or move from classroom to classroom, some students will need to mourn what once was before they can begin to accept the new reality. Rather than simply moving on, we need to provide students with opportunities to discuss their shared experiences since we were last together.
This can look like:
How are you doing?
What have you been doing since the last time we were together?
- I have missed seeing you and hearing about your life.
- Is there anything you want to share?
- What has been challenging about this experience?
- How can I help you if you are struggling?
Going on without acknowledging the grief and loss that come from living through a pandemic is disingenuous, invites potential behavior issues, and fails to honor our students as individuals.
Step 4 – Resilience & Adaptability –
By discussing with students what it means to be resilient and adaptable and giving them opportunities to practice, we’re not only teaching them how to cope with what’s happening in the world right now but also providing them with important life skills that will serve them into adulthood.
As educators, we need to praise our students for the resilience and adaptability they demonstrate this school year. This can look like:
- I am so impressed with how you rose to that challenge.
- I know wearing a mask is not always fun, but you are doing such a great job keeping yourself and your classmates healthy. Thank you.
- Brainstorming positive things that have come out of this period.
- Brainstorming ideas with students for how we can adapt pre-COVID traditions and activities to work in a post-COVID world.
Community: When we invite students to be part of the discussion, even the youngest children often surprise us with their insight.
Even if schools are not back in brick and mortar, students need to be reminded that they are valued members of the learning community. Helping our kids feel the same connectedness we create when we sponsor clubs and participate in pep assemblies is even more vital to their mental health than before COVID-19.
As adults, we can foster the idea that we are all in this together, not only as a school community but as part of our broader communities. This can look like:
- Continuing, where possible, remote extracurricular opportunities like clubs.
- Encouraging a mentoring program pairing older and younger students. (Reading buddies, mentors, etc. via teleconferencing)
- Maintaining school traditions where possible. (Can we still play the school fight song over the PA? Wear our class colors?)
- Every member of our school community is going to play a vital role in the mental health of students this year.
COVID 19 specific SEL resources for Remote teaching and E-learning.
Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in Sacramento City Unified School District, summarizes recommendations that he and other teachers made during an 11-part blog series on distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic for Education Week.
Experts at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network respond to questions about trauma-informed practices to support students during school closure and distance learning.
Introduction to the concept of trauma-informed practice and why it is especially crucial during distance learning. This research-based brief provides actionable strategies for applying a trauma-informed lens during school closures.
EdWeek speaks with SEL experts about specific strategies to help the student maintain social connections, manage stress, and build supportive environments through distance learning
A coalition of education organizations has curated this collection of best practices, free tech, ideas for parents, and webinars & podcasts to support distance learning.
A packet of resources to help teachers sustain community, support students, and create engaging, meaningful learning experiences.
Concise tip sheet for teachers to prepare for distance learning, from planning and pacing to supporting students as they adjust.
Resources for educators, parents, and youth for engaging in conversations and reflection about the complexity of citizenship and well-being in digital spaces. Includes lesson plans, activities, and additional tools for discussing this during COVID.
Practical strategies for teachers to build developmentally appropriate relationships with their students during COVID.
Uses the Adolescent Community of Engagement Framework to give practical strategies for creating genuinely engaging learning experiences for students during distance learning
This webpage provides project ideas, recommended technology, and best practices for facilitating project-based learning (PBL) remotely.