June 2nd, 2020

Few support resources - how to recognize when a teacher is in over their head?

It is important for teachers to provide SEL instruction to their students. However, it is also important for teachers to know their limitations both personally and professionally. Our district has provided an SEL program and sporadic training to teachers and staff. However, none of the training has addressed teachers'/staffs' personal and professional limitations. Because we have very few staff members dedicated to supporting our elementary students with social or emotional (even psychological) needs teachers pick up the slack. However, I have seen teachers involved in situations that are beyond their expertise or ability - personally or professionally. I am COMPLETELY supportive of SEL and was teaching it in my classroom years before it emerged in education circles. However, it is important to stress the limitations of teachers. It is unlawful to provide certain services without a professional license and teachers needs to be aware of those boundaries. When no one else is available to help a student, teachers with students who have extreme problems are quick to step in to fill the gap because we love our students. But teachers need training in knowing when and where to turn to if a situation is beyond their abilities or license.

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Comments (2)

Comments (2)

Hi Jana:

What training, specifically, do you need that you haven't gotten?

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Hi Cindy -- I can't speak for Jana but from the conversations I've had with teachers and administrators, it seems like some educators are looking for best practices in supporting student well-being across all three tiers of the care continuum. Here are some questions / themes that I've come across:

1) What are best practices for supporting a student in distress? How can we apply and model SEL strategies and concepts to support students in every day hot cognition states?

2) How do we know when a student is having a natural hot cognition state and when are their behaviors indicators of a larger mental health condition?

3) When we suspect that a student is in need of a tier 2/3 intervention, what are best practices for directing them to appropriate support, informing all appropriate parties, mitigating personal and institutional risk and liability and doing all of this deftly and compassionately with the delicate emotional and mental wellbeing of said student in mind? I think some teachers feel like they're left on their own without a proper protocol.

4) When we know a student in our class is struggling with a mental health condition, what are best practices for acknowledging their experience and the physical limitations of their condition while keeping them motivated and up to speed with classwork? What are best practices to evaluate their academic performance in light of their condition?

I have some thoughts based on different models I've seen with different school communities but I'd love to hear what other schools are doing in each of these areas :)