We have recently passed the year mark in a global pandemic. We are facing the last few months of a school year like never before. Parents, students, and teachers are feeling the frustrations, emotions, and uncertainties associated with upcoming transitions. Sometimes it feels like whiplash:
“We can’t go back to school, it's unsafe.”
“Return to school, it’s safe now.”
“I really need a break from my kids.”
“I miss my kids and will worry about them when they return to school.”
“Online learning just isn’t working, it’s too hard to learn to support my students in this format.”
“Being a virtual teacher has sparked my creativity, and I’m so comfortable with technology now.”
“I feel so frumpy in my sweats each day, I can’t wait to dress up again.”
“How will I ever wear real clothes and do without my slippers again?”
Sound familiar? It’s been a LONG year, navigating life without our typical routines. We are out of practice interacting socially with those outside of our bubble. In particular, our students have spent time separated from their friends, and out of practice in social situations and managing conflict. As we face the future of having kids return to “normal” school, what do we prioritize? Academics, or our students emotional and social needs?
We believe, Social and Emotional Learning should be at the top of your list, as you plan to return. We’ve written before about our philosophy that “relationships come before rigor.” We also believe you have to support the heart and mental well being of kids, for them to access education. One of our colleagues likes to say “You have to Maslow before you can Bloom.” Or put another way, kids’ basic needs have to be met before we can push them to a higher level of learning.
Articles and professional development for educators focuses on the importance of SEL: Social Emotional Learning. To the teachers who are reading this and are thinking “Yeah, I totally already do that” we have a question: How do you know you are doing this well? Where does this fit into your day as a teacher? Have you ever attempted to check your “SEL box”, by reading a picture book, or adding some reflection questions to your morning meetings. That’s a start; but it’s not enough. SEL has to be intentionally integrated into every unit we teach. It is the foundation of supporting our students, and without it, we will fall short of our student’s needs. When we are not intentional with teaching skills in self awareness; self management; social awareness; relationship skills; and responsible decision making, we do a disservice to our kids.
You may be thinking, “Where do I start?” We’ve got you! We plan to unpack the strategies and tools we use with kids in each of these areas. We’ll add the question prompts you can use in ANY area of instruction, that will help you develop the social and emotional muscles of your students. You will build mutual trust, and create the supporting environment our kids need. Stay tuned for our our next blog on helping students understand their emotions.