As you go back to school after COVID-19, how will you attend to students' and teachers' social-emotional needs?
After many months of remote teaching, going back to in-person instruction is like riding a bike. Right?
Actually, the social-emotional process of going back to school post-pandemic might be a bumpier transition than waking up your muscle memory on a bicycle.
The return will look and feel different for each educator. Some districts have already been back in person for months, while others are just starting to reopen their doors.
But what’s true for everyone is that social-emotional learning (SEL) will be critical for educators and students following such a challenging year. Here are five research-based SEL tips for a smooth transition back to in-person instruction.
Do you have students who often can’t seem to focus? Or who have angry outbursts?
Recovery from the collective trauma of the global pandemic will take different forms for each child. You may see an uptick in disruptive behavior, resulting from a combination of coronavirus exposure anxiety, grieving sick or lost loved ones, worsened financial situations, separation anxiety after spending so much time with family (especially for younger learners), and insecurity about academic setbacks.
In fact, educators familiar with trauma-informed teaching have known long before the pandemic that students often exhibit disruptive behavior because poverty and trauma have prevented their executive function skills, like self-regulation and working memory, from fully developing. 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.
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 classes ease back to in-person learning, some students may be struck all at once by the stress of fitting in, the fear of embarrassment, and pandemic-related stress. How can teachers meet them where they are emotionally, which will also help them succeed academically?
Offer students a lifeline and stay just far enough away to give them the agency to use it.
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. Be tactfully open about both the real risks of COVID-19 (and other threats they may fear) and mitigation strategies.
Help students learn to overcome their fears by using their own skills, rather than by relying on false assurances.
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.
Extend the same grace you offer your students to yourself.
Although we’re starting to put remote teaching behind us, many teachers are still 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.
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