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Lay the Foundation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

So how exhausted are you? Here in Rochester, N.Y. we just started school and I did not think it was possible to be even more tired than I was in March, but I somehow am. So just in case you need to read this today, Gina, Kristy, and I appreciate all you do. We know how hard this is and we’d like to provide you with some quick and easily transferable strategies.

One problem of practice I am hearing a lot of is having issues with getting to know your students. With many that are in hybrid or online settings, it can be difficult to build relationships in a way that feels meaningful. It is even a challenge to let students know who you are as well. I just had one of my teachers, Sam, say to me today “I have no idea if they like my jokes, or even know that I am joking. Everyone is on mute.” As the frustrations can easily mount, we want to offer some ideas or suggestions to build and maintain those relationships.

We wrote in our own e-book that “meaningful collaboration is built upon a foundation of trust and shared goals.” The way to build that trust and share goals is by making it a consistent practice because social emotional well being matters. When I think of student success in a classroom I am guilty of using content-based measurements only. As a former high school studies teacher, I always felt like there was always SO MUCH content that students needed to hear. Elena Aguilar’s definition of educational equity was a big help to recenter my own thinking:

“Educational equity means that every child receives whatever she/he/they need to develop her/his/their full academic and social potential and to thrive, every day. By thrive I mean academically as well as social-emotionally... Emotional well being is as important as academic success in this definition.” (Aguilar, Elena. Coaching for Equity, pg 6)

By taking care of students' social and emotional well being, they will be able to access the content we want to teach them. There have been plenty of times I have said “I know I taught them that!”, but it doesn’t mean they were emotionally ready to learn it.

To help lay the foundation for social and emotional learning (SEL), you also have to think about how students are also getting opportunities to get to know each other and collaborate. How do students have moments to get more involved in organic conversations? Many of the strategies offered in our e-book will help with that, but Gina, Kristy, and I want to offer some practical openings and reflections to get students communicating through conversations and stories. This way, we can all learn more about one another and to help uncover students' current emotional status.

(Please note, that while the images below suggest online, all of these can be done in person too)

I want to leave you with this ending quote:

“a conversation is so much more than words: a conversation is eyes, smiles, the silences between words.”- Annika Thor.

Think about how you intentionally plan for those types of conversations to occur.


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