May 18th, 2020

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.

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Comments (2)

Comments (2)

Hi Eric:

Thanks for joining our conversation. Do you expect to see a tension between SEL and academics when classes resume in the fall? Is there a way to ensure they are better blended?

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Right, there will be some. I don't know if tension is the word, but I think academics will be the primary focus of everyone's attention and without consideration, our students' SEL will suffer. Neurologically, students will struggle to learn more when there is screen between them and their teacher. Socially-emotionally, they aren't in their classroom, many of which are their safe spaces, with predictable routines and supportive staff. All students will be challenged, our behavior/social/emoyionally challenged students will be compounded even more so. So the tension you are asking about is more about if teachers can prioritize SEL enough to plan for it. During distance learning, as their weekly assignment schedules go out, if SEL is considered this will give all students a leg up. I think special ed teachers are planning for it, because the IEP goals usually factor in SEL and the goals are driving SP.ED distance learning. If Sp.Ed. and Gen.Ed. can collaborate where thoughtful, purposeful SEL lessons. If the students with social emotional needs are identified early on. If the SEL lessons are included in daily planning, and if the parents are included in SEL support, not only will ALL students be supported but the teams will be able to track the SEL growth of these students in need. The tension is only on the teachers' time and focus, as it will take both to fold SEL into their daily planning. Which is, granted, easier said than done.