June 2nd, 2020

SEL isn't a Destination, it's a Process

When I think about what is working to support the well-being and SEL needs right now for our students during distance learning I can think of anecdotal examples of creative ways teachers are connecting with students despite not being physically present. However, the fact of the matter is, no one really knows what's working.

How much data is being collected and evaluated to really know where we stand in meeting the social-emotional needs of students and families? For the past 3 years my school has collected teacher perception data on student SEL competencies. Our surveys gave teachers the ability to support target students' needs in the classroom and monitor student growth. If we tried to continue with that same model of perception data, it would be inaccurate and challenging to evaluate honestly. I think that in order to have a better idea of where schools stand in supporting SEL needs, we need to be proactive in generating student and parent perception surveys on what they need, their foundational understanding of SEL, and their life challenges prior to the start of the new school year. Until schools have data to show to what extent distance learning practices are supporting SEL needs- we are shooting in the dark as to where to target our efforts in supporting students and families. We need to go directly to the source.

I think that new approaches to SEL are something that educators are going to be exploring on a whole new, creative, and dynamic level if distance learning continues. I can see how teachers are going to re-imagine ways of building relationships with students and parents, teaching and practicing SEL skills remotely through small group or 1-on-1 meetings, recording videos, creating websites dedicated to SEL for parents and students with links to outside support agencies. Schools should form leadership teams to call families for well-checks and gather feedback for perception surveys. The possibilities are vast. We know that necessity is the mother of invention, and I believe that technology is a medium that teachers are going to harness to invent better ways to serve the social-emotional needs of students.

Tags: relationships, SEL Resources

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Comments (3)

Comments (3)

Hi Colleen:

What questions would you ask in the parent and teacher surveys to get the information you would need to adjust SEL to meet students' needs?

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Hi Cindy,
I think prior to the start of the new school year it would be valuable to focus on student and parents perceptions because teacher perceptions of students strengths/needs would be much more difficult to assess in a small time frame (if distance learning continues). Although, I think teacher perceptions would be valuable as progress-monitoring tools based upon student & parent feedback. For parents and students, I think they should be given a list of choices of the aspects of the 5 competencies and how well the district is supporting the child on each one of those measures. It would be helpful for staff to know how well students and parents feel they have been supported in: emotional/stress management, how to make positive choices, problem solving, conflict resolution, perseverance, and feeling connected to a social group of peers. I also think parents should be asked what supports the district could provide that would be helpful for themselves, so they can take care of themselves and their children. Topics for parent education could include: knowledge about child development, emotional intelligence/behavior management, relationship skills, how to support school routines at home peacefully, and stress management for themselves.

Surveys should also include practical and logistical questions that address what barriers/concerns they have in engaging in learning if distance learning continues (shared devices/internet access/caring for family members/not feeling the same connection with school). In addition to these, students and parents should also be asked about basic necessities that could be barriers such as food stability, rent assistance, childcare, and mental health issues and if they need information to be connected to outside agencies for support.

It would be helpful if these surveys could be disaggregated so that teachers could have profiles of their students before the first day of school. As a teacher, I could see what areas of explicit SEL instruction to begin with based on this data of student needs. My school is lucky enough to have an SEL curriculum, so I would adjust the pacing and instruction to fit their needs. Student Support Services staff should create online parent education nights based upon parent needs for support at home that could be streamed live, such as a webinar, and then sent out as a recording later to provide equitable access.

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Near or far, we all need to feel 'seen, to 'feel 'connected.' Perhaps 'connecting' over the internet draws out a more urgent awareness of the universal need for connection, and from that awareness, are we not witnessing a strengthening of our intention to be more fully 'present' with each of our students? The only constant is change, and boy-oh-boy, are we ever living through that fact right now. We CAN bring undivided attention to each student. We CAN create moments for each student to be in a warm and nurturing 'spotlight.' One way to do that with younger students, is to ask them questions that are personal (though not too personal, of course). Questions that STRETCH their thinking about the ordinary elements of their lives. Questions that are OPEN-ENDED, of course. Questions that are AGE-APPROPRIATELY CHALLENGING and lead in unpredictable directions. Questions that are RELEVANT. And, most importantly: questions that are RESPECTFUL of their perspective, their insights, their background, their unique forms and expressions of intelligence ...

Oh, and yes ... SEL is definitely not a destination, and it definitely is a process... an ongoing process.

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