COVID 19 has pushed into the spotlight one aspect of education focuses on student well-being. That this has always been an important, necessary topic to devote time and resources to goes without saying. But, COVID 19, as significant events tend to do, elevated what was on the margins of our attention and made Social Emotional Learning (SEL) a priority.
Among the outcomes from this shift are:
- A shared vocabulary.
- New or improved practices.
- Changes to communication efforts.
- Improved data collection efforts.
Thankfully, new or reallocated funds to support these shifts and practices have been part of the package.
The state I work in defines SEL as “The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” The state extends the definition’s context by adding, “Social-emotional learning begins at home and continues through adulthood. Embedding SEL intentionally in school culture advances the work that begins and continues at home.”
In the best-case scenarios, SEL is not seen as a luxury or a “check the box” practice only during specified events or designated periods. Instead, SEL is part of the school’s culture and, in turn, the community. Of course, this includes implementing SEL practices in the classroom. For example, I remember realizing the necessity of SEL in my class regarding nurturing positive relationships between students and me AND among students in my class.
Implementing a school or county-wide SEL mindset will likely be a new or burgeoning venture. So, what areas of SEL your services, products, and expertise can augment for schools? The list below offers some inroads of support or topics to discuss with the school’s leadership.
- Gathering Data: My school system uses multiple data collection tools to collect and understand student experiences, beliefs, and habits. These are part of the student class time across K-12 schools. Gathering data is an imperative practice for understanding SEL realities shared by students.
- Communicating and Supporting Schools: Making SEL part of the mainstream educational culture is needed to make an impact on students and educators. What programs, training, and resources can you offer that support this transition?
- Communicating and Supporting the Community: The extended definition offered by my state’s framing recognized the importance of the home experience with SEL.
- Families must be partners with schools to make SEL initiatives work.
- Classroom Practices A teacher is still the most impactful factor in a student’s education. In turn, if you want SEL to happen in classes, you need a faculty who knows how to make it happen – and believes in SEL’s benefits. Professional development in SEL for teachers will still need to be connected to their teaching content.
To finish, I was asked to compile some practices teachers could easily implement last year.
From this exercise, it became apparent that what teachers were asked to do would 1) develop beneficial relationships and 2) time devoted to SEL is a practice that benefits all students. That student data – positivity, engagement, empathy, and joy – is priceless.
To learn more about fostering a positive school climate, reach out to Agile Education today.