Sunday, August 23, 2020

The importance of meeting students social and emotional needs while distance learning

It was 2:45 pm on March 13 when I received the news that I would be immediately transitioning to distance learning starting Monday.  There was no time to say goodbye to my students or prepare them for the next few months.  I spent the weekend scrambling to figure out how to modify my instruction and, for me, how to keep teaching SEL.

SEL stands for social and emotional learning. It’s the process through which students learn to understand and manage their thoughts and emotions, set and create action steps to achieve goals, learn to show empathy for others and self-compassion for themselves, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  These days, students are dealing with so many things that it is difficult for them to concentrate and perform at school.  Teaching students SEL helps them calm and quiet their brains so that they can take in new information and access their learning.

Before moving to distance learning, I took 40 minutes out of my week of teaching science to teach SEL through mindfulness and principles of success.   My students learned how to acknowledge their thoughts and emotions and keep them from taking over their lives.  They were also learning success skills such as perseverance, embracing feedback, goal setting, and visualizing what they wanted.  I felt that these skills were extremely important, more important than the science topics I was teaching them.

When we had to transition to remote learning suddenly, my main concern was my students’ technology and emotional needs.  Many of my students have high anxiety, and some of their home lives are not that great.  School was a safety ground for them.  I was concerned about their abilities to access their assignments and even more concerned about how they would be dealing with the added stress of being at home and the uncertainty of Covid-19.

I turned every Friday into a wellness check.  Asking them how they were doing? Having them fill out a Google Form to tell me about the emotions they were feeling and why they chose those emotions.  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

I knew I had to bring mindfulness and the principles of success back. Students were asking for them and saying that it was what they missed the most about being in my classroom. But how to do it online?

I did a few things to accomplish this.

  1. I created an Instagram account for my school to post inspirational messages and do some live mindfulness breathing exercises.
  2. I created some guided mindfulness audios and shared them with my students to access them whenever they felt the need.
  3. I created slide presentations, digital journals, and videos to cover the topics that allowed me to teach the information to my students and reflect on the information and do some exercises.

Now that we are starting a new school year and will once again be starting the year entirely online, I plan on continuing to bring SEL into my science classroom.  I have witnessed the changes in teaching mindfulness and principles of success have made for my students.  I will be doing a block schedule with synchronous and asynchronous teaching.  I plan on spending every Wednesday teaching mindfulness and principles of success to help the students have a positive start to their week. I'm calling it Wellness Wednesday.

        You can access the videos I created on my Youtube channel to help you meet your students’ social and emotional needs this year.  Whether you are entirely in the classroom, doing a hybrid model, or fully online, these videos will help students with their social and emotional needs.

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