Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been at the forefront of my thinking over the past two weeks. I immensely believe that in order for educators to be able to enable students in academic learning, Physical, Social and Emotional needs must be met or at least have a plan in place for developing the needed competencies.
Basically, a student cannot learn if they are hungry, are anxious about what is happening in their home, or worried about their safety. As well, if they do not have the skills or competencies to deal with issues, concerns, and disputes as they arise, they will have a difficult day in a school where they must live and learn with hundreds of other students and adult staff.
The Circle of Courage is a major part of the culture and tradition of Keeler School, and has been the biggest factor in the development of a philosophy that builds and recognizes the development of citizenship, belonging, generosity, independence and mastery. I think the next step for us is looking at how we actively teach and coach students, all students, in developing their SEL competencies and skills.
In that regard, what do we need to do to improve to enable student learning in both Social and Emotional Learning, as well as setting them up for improvement and success in academic learning?
Develop a school culture of citizenship and SEL… We must live SEL through the culture of the school through common language, understandings, focus, and intentionality. The Circle of Courage will remain our cultural foundation, but now we need to reflect on how we better enable the development of the skills and competencies that build on that foundation.
We must be direct teaching in the development of SEL competencies… We sometimes forget that students do not automatically gain these skills through osmosis.
We must be purposeful in working to enable students to develop SEL competencies… This is not something to be left to chance. We use class meetings, teachable moments, guided inquiry, and specific, focused lessons so students can develop these competences from Kindergarten on through their school career.
This is long-term learning, not a short-term solution… This will not solve all of our issues, but we will see a change in the school culture through this work. This will help us to move beyond reactive.
We must find ways to be proactive in working with students around behavioral, social, and emotional needs… I believe students can learn, all students, how better to work with and get along with others, as well as about their own social and emotional needs and lagging skills.
Teachers, Staff and Administrators must all act as positive role models and coaches… If we are not modeling this, with each other, with kids, with parents, who will?
When an issue does arise (as they always will), we must look at the core of the issue and examine what the lagging skills are, then work to develop and coach students… What is the core of this issue? What does the student need to improve? How do we coach them to build them up?
When a student is referred to the office, we must support students with strategies where we are role modeling as well… How can we assist them in learning to self-regulate after the escalation, as well as build up strategies and supports to prevent the escalation in the first place?
- Do they need food, as they are hungry?
- Give them some time. Whenever I rush this process, I find it just is not effective…
- Use of consistent resources such as Strategy posters that can guide the student’s reflection and guide discussion between kids and adults.
- An exercise bike or an individual trampoline – I have experimented with having an exercise bike available for students (if they choose to use it) as an active way to self-regulate, rather than “Sit down and be quiet.” I have a visual timer that we set for a specific time for them to use the bike. The early results have been great, when the kids choose to use it… Often a student who was highly escalated comes off smiling!
- The implementation of a Sensory Room – A place with mats, swings or special rocking chairs, exercise balls, individual trampoline, calming lights, etc.
- One principal shared that she has a Velcro target board with Velcro Ping-Pong balls that the students love to use, which is also a great distractor.
- Pulse Meters as part of Math, but to have students check their pulse rate and then have them do self-calming. It is also a distraction or diversion…
- Another principal shared that she keeps a bin of mixed up markers that needs to be sorted by a students, and it magically keeps getting mixed up!
- Time for Writing for students to be able to think and reflect
- Time for Reading as a calming strategy
- A problem-solving process that students are used to, whether it is individual and quiet or it is guided and collaborative with an adult.
- I think probably the biggest factor and strategy is how much of a focus on SEL takes place in the classrooms in the students’ daily lives at school. This work enables administrators in the office to build on the learning that is already taking place!
This is my thinking at the moment. I can’t wait to engage in further learning and collaboration with my colleagues!