Now more than ever, superintendents, school directors, and principals recognize and understand the need for social-emotional learning for both students and teachers. The uncertainty of COVID – 19 has affected everyone in many ways, and its effects may have long-lasting impressions in education.
What is social-emotional learning? “Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” – (CASEL). As teachers, parents, and students alike wonder how education will look post-COVID-19, classroom practitioners are demanding the social-emotional learning component and trauma-informed teaching. When we examine the effects of COVID-19, we have to analyze and discuss the influence and impact on students in our schools who are disenfranchised, who experience racism (explicit, implicit, systematic; and microaggressions) as well as those who are impoverished, victimized by peers, encounter violence in the home/community, and bullying.”
“2020 has been a year, and we are not halfway through it” – John, the parent of Alexander (Alex) 6th-grade student in my Literature class, reminds me of the blessings and hardships he has experienced in 2020, while quarantined. John states, “I am fortunate I can work and provide for my family during the time, but teaching five children who have different learning levels and personalities is hard not only for me but my kids.” “My kids need a different type of attention, and I may not have what they need.” I get it, providing multilevel instruction along adhering to social-emotional needs and trauma can be daunting, but necessary when we think of the alternative.
John is trying to understand why his children were anxious or angry, seemingly all the time, and he is looking for ways to help soothe their fears, but he needs a clear strategy or focal point. What John knew innately was – academic learning had to take a back seat until he figured out why his children were out of sorts. I wanted to help. In my class, we use SEL methodologies that my middle-schoolers understand, CEMM = Communication, Evaluation, Manage, and Move Forward.
Communication – allowing students to articulate the problem written or verbally is critical. Students must be able to share their emotions in a non-intrusive and positive way – even if it may appear negative. One way we have had success is “feelings in the fishbowl.” Students are allowed to use an emotions chart to examine how and why they feel while jotting them down and placing them in the fishbowl. When students are ready to chat, we evaluate what’s going on together. I never disregard how they feel, although we may feel differently. We work to evolve current feelings by assessing.
Evaluation – Students reflect, determine the exact antecedent of their feeling(s), and ask themselves why the issue is bothersome. We also question ourselves and ask, “will this continue to upset me in five minutes, five months, and/or five years?” Answering this question honestly and thoughtfully helps all parties gain perspective. We also identify how much time and energy to allocate to the issue. When explaining this to John, I shared this is a patience journey letting Alex talk or write his thoughts without invalidating his feeling is key to the process.
Manage – After Alex reflects, it is essential to ask. “How can you manage his feelings while being respectful to self and others?” This is a great parent or teacher question because Alex has to share space, and there are clear perimeters/boundaries that have to be initiated and practiced daily in a shared area. John can also gage how Alex is thinking regarding safety.
Moving Forward – This can be one of the most challenging stages, often people get stuck (or parked) in a funk and do not want to get out or do not know how to grow. However, offering “SMART” measurable goals helps this stage. A SMART goal is a carefully planned, precise, and has a trackable objective. It’s an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
S = Specific Be as clear and specific as possible with what you want to achieve.
M = Measurable What evidence will prove you’re making progress toward your goal?
A = Achievable Have you set an achievable goal? Setting goals, you can reasonably accomplish within a specific timeframe will help keep you motivated and focused.
R = Relevant When setting goals for yourself, consider whether or not they are relevant, do they align with your values.
T = Time-based What is your goal timeframe? An end-date can help provide motivation and help you prioritize. (Indeed.com 3/2020)
How likely will social-emotional and trauma-informed teaching be necessary for the fall?