As you go back to school, how will you attend to students' and teachers' social-emotional needs?
Coming back to school from summer break and jumping right back into structured instructional time and challenging materials is like riding a bike. Right?
Actually, the social-emotional process of going back to school might be a bumpier transition than waking up your muscle memory on a bicycle. For both you and your students!
Social-emotional learning (SEL) will be critical for educators and students to make a smooth transition to productive learning. Here are five research-based SEL tips for a smooth transition back to school.
1. Extend Grace
Do you have students who often can’t seem to focus? Or who have angry outbursts?
Educators familiar with trauma-informed teaching know that, even before the pandemic, students who exhibit disruptive behavior often do so because poverty and trauma have prevented their executive function skills, like self-regulation and working memory, from fully developing. In fact, these learners are precisely the ones whose families have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
When you’re standing at the board in front of 30 students, your options may be limited, but you can make an impact by extending grace.
2. Give Teens a Lifeline and Some Slack
Neurological research shows that adolescents are going through an intense growth period, cognitively and emotionally. They yearn for independence while still needing the safety and support of adults.
As students return to class, some may be struck all at once by the stress of fitting in, the fear of embarrassment, and pressure to live up to expectations. How can teachers meet them where they are emotionally, while also helping them succeed academically?
Offer students a lifeline and stay just far enough away to give them the agency to use it.
3. Encourage but Don’t Reassure
When your students are distressed, you might be tempted to say something like, “Everything will be fine,” or “There’s nothing to worry about.”
However, blanket reassurances like these can invalidate students’ feelings and even foster excessive reassurance-seeking, which is prevalent in cases of OCD and anxiety.
Teachers can better help students by being honest and encouraging, rather than reassuring.
Help students learn to overcome their fears by using their own skills, rather than by relying on false assurances.
4. Create A Sense of Community in the Classroom
How do you guarantee a good turnout at your party? Give your guests assignments: preparing a dish, bringing the speakers, or being someone’s ride.
By contributing to an event or community, people feel a stake in the outcome and are more likely to invest in long-term community building.
Ask each student to bring a dish, so to speak, when it comes to building your classroom community.
Elementary school teachers commonly involve students as community members by rotating them through class roles like line leader or student of the week. Older students need roles that are truly meaningful to them, such as discussion facilitator.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
Extend the same grace you offer your students to yourself.
While your students may need your support and compassion, it's also true that many teachers are burned out. Self-care is often talked about, but it can be easier said than done.
SEL Is Timeless
These five research-backed SEL strategies are helpful any time, whether you’re about to go back to school or you've been back for a while. Your students will succeed as you forge stronger relationships with them, help them build SEL skills, and develop your own skills to better treat the whole child.
Carnegie Learning is helping students learn why, not just what. Born from more than 30 years of learning science research at Carnegie Mellon University, the company has become a recognized leader in the ed tech space, using artificial intelligence, formative assessment, and adaptive learning to deliver groundbreaking solutions to education’s toughest challenges. With the highest quality offerings for K-12 math, ELA, literacy, world languages, professional learning and more, Carnegie Learning is changing the way we think about education, fostering learning that lasts.Explore more related to this author