June 5th, 2020

A New Approach to Social and Emotional Programming

How might COVID-19 enable new approaches to the social and emotional aspects of learning next fall–or whenever we re-enter our schools?

As COVID has impacted our sense of normalcy everyone has been forced to learn to adjust to a new norm. COVID-19 has enabled new approaches to the social and emotional aspects of learning next fall or when we re-enter our schools.

Not only has it been difficult for adults to adjust but for children as well. Uncertainty and anxiousness ultimately lead to fear of the unknown. As we return to school children and caregivers will need support in learning how to cope with all of the different emotions COVID-19 has caused. Social-emotional learning will be essential, as we continue to build back from the pandemic. We need to ensure there is a space for them to explore their emotions, learn positive coping mechanisms, and feel a sense of support and guidance.

COVID-19 has required us to be creative, adaptive, and patient in our new ways of programming. For instance; since COVID-19, we have found ways to integrate SEL into remote programming by supplying students with a fun and interactive SEL activity booklet.

This activity booklet follows the 6 emotions; sadness, anger, worry, fear, self-esteem, and empathy. Each emotion has fun and engaging activities that focus on each of the five key areas of SEL; self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, social-skills, and responsible decision making. This booklet is appropriate to use in any setting, such as when we re-enter our schools as it does not have a sole focus on the pandemic.

If children and staff are offered the social-emotional aspects of learning it will reflect on children’s response to this time of uncertainty and staff will be better able to respond to the individual need of their student, setting a strong support system that will build resiliency in our staff, students and their communities.

What is working to support well-being, build relationships and prioritize Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), right now?

Families need support from professionals in our space. We have prepared our staff to do so by, integrating SEL trainings into the virtual meetings with other Save the Children staff. The individuals we have trained are very grateful for the resources we have provided them with, as they can identify ways to incorporate SEL into their lesson plans. We can use our knowledge on SEL to further build relationships with our coworkers and support their well-being, for them to be able to assist families during this difficult time.

As we learn to navigate COVID we have identified professionals support being the greatest need within our community right now, SEL is a gateway for us to build a resilient community by offering resources that can help students and their families as well as with providing social-emotional support to cope with this time of uncertainty.

What barriers prevent you from integrating SEL more into your work?

The barriers that our team has experienced that prevent us from integrating SEL into our work, is the lack of funding for SEL programming in schools, and having to coordinate with outside entities that may need more of a ‘buy-in’ with SEL programming.

Oftentimes, these entities would prefer to stay within academic curriculum guidelines, instead of bringing in something entirely new that may cause them to shift schedules and/or adapt.

Once the need and the impact for SEL is discovered, entities are always more receptive to our work. The inability to fund SEL programming prevents children from developing their social-emotional skills, necessary to better understand and cope with their emotions and building their resiliency. It is also important to mention, that those who implement SEL should also carry the same characteristics and fully support the work they are doing. If they don’t, then the students won’t have a positive role model to model their behaviors.

SEL is a large component that can support children in understanding their emotions without them internalizing and not possessing the coping mechanisms on how to externalize their emotions positively.

What supports do you need to integrate SEL equitably into your practices–especially with remote learning?

To integrate SEL equitably into our practices–especially with remote learning, we will need the support of partners such as school district leaders, to ensure that SEL learning is part of the teaching rubric and learning component in our schools. To gain that support, we must display program efficacy through data, as well as substantial research that backs and promotes SEL programming.

With the support of partners such as school district leaders, we are better able to integrate SEL programs such as Save the Children’s Journey of Hope, which provides ongoing and comprehensive support to build our staff, students, and caregiver’s innate ability to be resilient. School staff is provided professional development opportunities to foster and provide awareness of the importance of SEL and build their capacity for quality programming implementation, to support building that resiliency among staff, children, and caregivers.

Tags: Adult SEL, community building, curriculum, Integrating SEL into academics, Mental health, school climate and safety, SEL & Remote learning, SEL Leadership, SEL Resources, student-centered, students

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