Social emotion learning and COVID closures
The challenges of moving to distance learning during these closures will effect students social emotional learning, and over all learning. That is a given. It is the teachers' tapping into their prior relationships with the students, and considering social/emotional needs during individual student planning that will make a difference during this time. In re-entering our schools, students will be out of routines, not have the social practice of seeing their friends, and possibly suffering the instability of the home environment. Continued relationship building, social/emotional lessons, and time for socialization during synchronous learning will be key to keeping those social/emotional and behavioral skills strong during this time of closure. Currently, I am working with many teachers who are considering social emotional learning. Specifically I am supporting our TLC teachers (Therapeutic Learning Center, i.e. ED) whose students are some of the most impacted during this time. To address their students social emotional learning, they are providing regular opportunities to have face-to-face social groups (via Zoom meetings), mental health therapists are able to conduct sessions over Zoom regularly, and teachers are able to give daily lessons to their students, aligned to the social, emotional and behavior IEP goals. These may be social stories in which students have to write (or film role playing) of how the characters should and should not respond to situations (and then show the probable effect of each decision).
Finally, it can't be underestimated that some of our parents are struggling having to take the teacher role. Some do not have the skills to set academic and behavioral boundaries for their kids. Their students' engagement may be less because the parents are struggling to get them to work. In these situations we work with district psychologists or behaviorist to have private meetings with the parents, hear their concerns and help them set up positive behavior reinforcement plans at home to support them in motivating their students to work.
Currently barriers are parent and student participation. Sometimes their lack of engagement is due to behavior reasons to which we try to support. Sometimes it is due to parents' availability. Some of it is due to all earning happening over technology and the natural disconnect this can cause between teachers and students. To better support students and teachers with SEL over this break would be access to more online curriculum that specifically provides daily lessons, games and activities targeting the range of social, emotional and behavioral needs. Further, parent training in how to motivate and manage their kids' behavior with a focus on positive reinforcement would be key.