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The ABCs of Social-Emotional Learning

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Recycled paper planners at House of Doolittle

There is nothing like a global pandemic to cause upheaval in every part of our society, especially in the field of education. As COVID-19 permeated our lives it felt like everything came to a screeching halt with few solutions in sight and addressing education was at the top of this list. 

Even during the best of times teachers are concerned with every aspect of their students’ lives in the classroom. They constantly monitor lesson comprehension, grades, attendance, behavior, and other segments of classroom culture. Their recycled paper planners and appointment books are filled with notes and reminders about lessons and activities. When the cancellation of school days turned into weeks and months, teachers had to adapt the items on their schedules within a rapidly changing setting.  

Of course, the focus is always on the students, but the pandemic and subsequent shifting from in-person to remote learning placed added pressure on educators without paying attention to their well-being. The uncertainty of the pandemic’s impact on education combined with the logistics of online classrooms has taken a toll on teachers, students, and parents. These consequences were particularly exacting on teachers who had to navigate the unknown within their professional and personal lives. Their overall health is essential to positive and productive classroom outcomes therefore implementing a strategy of social-emotional learning is essential to teachers’ overall welfare.  

What is Social-Emotional Learning? 

This educational methodology focuses on helping learners, in this case, teachers, develop the necessary tools to manage the challenges they face in the classroom and their personal lives. Social-emotional learning (SEL) can help teachers understand their challenges and concerns and create a strategy that helps them manage the stressors associated with their profession. 

It is widely known that a staggering number of teachers leave their chosen careers due to feeling undervalued, underpaid, and overwhelmed with demands originating from multiple sources. With these factors in place, how can it be expected for teachers to function effectively? SEL can guide teachers to become more aware of their feelings, understand the triggers associated with being worried, overwhelmed, and burned-out, and address all these factors by equipping them with the tools to either solve or move beyond the problem.  

By understanding the core competencies of SEL, teachers can adapt and apply their knowledge, skills, and behaviors in the classroom and personal settings to create a healthier, more satisfying experience: 

• Self-awareness 

• Self-management 

• Social awareness 

• Relationship skills 

• Responsible decision-making  

Self-Awareness. This allows for an assessment of feelings and emotions. Teachers can learn to identify the triggers that produce negative behaviors and thus develop skills to redirect these feelings into positive actions. 

• Activity: Identify an activity or hobby that allows you to clear your mind and focus on only what is in your immediate sphere. This can include an enormous variety of possibilities including meditating, walking, and yoga.  

Self-Management. This is an active part of SEL where self-awareness leads to skills in self-management. Evaluating stressors, time constraints, and organization can contribute to teachers becoming accountable for their goals thus achieving better outcomes.  

• Activity: Keep a journal throughout the school year to track specific situations and assess the approach enacted to achieve goals based on analysis and personal reflection.  

Social Awareness. This promotes the ability to direct focus outward. Teachers can practice compassion and empathy directed toward others as a way to nurture empathy and inclusion. When the focus is off of self and on others’ teachers can become aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses as well as their feelings.  

• Activity: Organize a service project for an underserved or vulnerable population in your community to nurture compassion and positive feelings toward diversity. 

Relationship Skills. This capitalizes on the positive results of social awareness. Teachers can practice creating, cultivating, and maintaining healthy social relationships based on communication, cooperation, and approaching conflict with diplomacy. 

• Activity: Engage other educators in discussions to inform on best teaching practices and how to offer mutual support.  

Responsible Decision-Making. This competency allows teachers to avoid the trappings of kneejerk, emotional decisions and incorporate thoughtful decisions based on constructive analysis and problem-solving.  

• Activity: Identify the decision to be made, write a list of pros and cons, and then weigh the potential impact and result of both sides.  

The benefits of social-emotional learning can positively influence all aspects of teachers’ lives which can, in turn, impact their students. The process of including social-emotional learning as a way for teachers to become healthier physically, mentally, and socially encompasses more than another to-do list with boxes to tick. It is a well-researched practice highly regarded as an approach to help teachers manage a challenging yet rewarding job without succumbing to negative or difficult influences.  

Take a long look at a teacher you know. They are more than their paper planner or grade book. They carry the enormous responsibility of educating children who will be equipped to take on the world with intelligence, enthusiasm, and curiosity. No teacher should ever have to feel diminished by difficult circumstances or seemingly unsolvable challenges. Encourage teachers to incorporate social-emotional learning in their daily practice. Not only will it benefit them as they maneuver through the daily tasks of being a successful teacher, but it will also benefit every student who crosses the threshold into their classroom.     

If you’re looking for academic planners, House of Doolittle has got you covered! Check out all of our recycled academic products today.      

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