As we reflect on the past school year and prepare for next year, it is helpful to evaluate the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices and how they served to shape the culture of learning and development in your schools. According to the CASEL’s (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning ) framework, “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions." SEL “advances educational equity [and] can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”
Every first day of school is a new opportunity for a fresh start. As the first day of the 2021-2022 school year approached, teachers across the country were grappling with the question: How do I start fresh when faced with so much uncertainty?
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In an effort to reconnect with students to truly understand their experience with virtual learning and what they will need from their teachers going forward in an educational landscape irrevocably impacted by this year’s events, we decided to embark upon a two-week long empathy interview tour with students themselves. We searched high and low - from reaching out to former students through email, connecting with former colleagues still in the classroom, to scouring Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Not only did this allow for a mind-blowing retrospective of my twenty years in the classroom - what the students shared in an honest, open platform enlightened us to their relationship with school and opened our eyes to how kids are actually interfacing with the technology that has functioned, and will likely continue to function, as a central vehicle for instruction.
As teachers everywhere gear up to go back to school in various settings this Fall, one thing is for certain: they need to be prepared to deal with a number of issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, chief among them being impacts to student mental health. If they’re lucky, teachers have a team of support staff in the form of school counselors and psychologists to help assist students, but even so, much of the work will fall to teachers to help keep students in a headspace where they are able to learn. As the people who spend the most time with students, teachers must incorporate support for mental health into their classrooms.
At Education Elements, we devote a massive amount of time and resources to helping our partner schools select digital content that will best serve the academic needs of their students. Whether the goal is to understand fractions, parts of speech, or the events leading up to the Civil War, our team has a knack for knowing right where to look in hand-selecting the best content for any learning goal. But we also understand that academic achievement is composed of many pillars. A student who has skipped breakfast, for instance, may have significant trouble paying attention in class. Another who is experiencing stress with a project partner may fail to turn in an assignment merely due to lack of communication skills rather than a lack of understanding. In more extreme cases, an otherwise bright student may severely underperform due to social exclusion by his peers.