As educational leaders meet to address the growing number of students experiencing anxiety and failing grades, one thing is clear; we cannot expect students to thrive in academics when their social emotional needs are not being met. Research has shown that until students feel safe and connected to a caring school community, learning and academic achievement is compromised.
If we want our young people to achieve, pass their classes and graduate then job #1 for our schools is to develop and implement a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Plan. Such a plan provides resources, training, and support to school staff to help students process their emotions, get the help they need and connect with peers, so each student knows they are not alone in hard times, and that the school “has their back”. Until these actions are taken, many students will likely struggle and even fail.
Here are some critical action steps that can be taken while distance learning and some to be initiated in a hybrid setting (distance learning combined with classroom instruction).
7 Recommended Practices to Promote Social Emotional Wellness in Distance and Hybrid Classrooms:
- Restorative Practices approaches such as Listening and Community Building circles
- Development of SEL competencies
- Social activities that promote positive connection, communication and reflection (Journaling, icebreaker games)
- Peer support groups to assist struggling students or prevent students from further isolating
- Advisory periods that provide small group processing and support
- Individualized support for students with greatest needs
- SEL skills training and support for students
Community Matters understands the importance of helping students feel connected and empowered during this time. Our programs for students and adults support school efforts to utilize pro-social practices that foster connection, promote digital and real-world citizenship, and improve well-being and mental health. We also offer training for staff and administrators that support them with restorative practices skills and provide tools to cultivate classroom communities where students’ emotional needs are addressed so they are prepared to achieve academically.
Helping our youth to thrive in times of uncertainty provides unique opportunities for collaboration to strengthen our communities. Let’s work together to make sure students can succeed despite the obstacles presented by the current crisis.