As we reflect on the past couple of years, and all the challenges we have faced, one thing is clear — students, their parents and caregivers, and educators are resilient. We have relied on social and emotional learning (SEL) to help us navigate and overcome stress, anxiety, and disruption to our normal routines.
Many continue to need support as we face new challenges and continue to work through difficult times. Below we’ve listed ways you can use SEL to improve your own health and well-being, and also how to support students and their families with SEL.
Social and Emotional Wellness Tips for Educators
As an educator, you are in a unique position to provide stability and support to your students and their families. But in order to do that, you must first take care of your own social-emotional well-being.
Here are a few ways you to take care of your social and emotional well-being so that you’re better able to support others.
- Prioritize self-care. You have to “put your own oxygen mask on before you can assist another.” In other words, educators need to make sure their own physical, social, and emotional needs are met in order to best serve their students. Make sure to build self-care practices into your daily routines.
- Lean on family, friends, and coworkers. Talking about your experiences, fears and frustrations can relieve stress. Just be careful to not let it spiral and cause more anxiety. Focus conversations on sharing ideas to support each other and your students while you’re not able to be face-to-face.
- Focus on positive thoughts. It may sound simple, but much research (https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-positive-thinking/) shows that an optimistic thinking can increase coping skills during times of hardship or stress and improve physical health. Read this article for tips on how to practice a positive mindset.
- Limit your media exposure. Constantly tuning into the news can increase anxiety and stress levels. It’s important to stay informed but be sure to limit how long and how often you watch or listen to the news. Make sure to only listen to experts so you are getting reliable and accurate information.
- Limit time spent on social media. While the memes about the run on toilet paper may be funny, constant exposure to other people’s reactions (and possible overreactions) can cause increased stress and anxiety, and it can distort reality.
- Find ways to relax and de-stress. Whether it’s meditating, practicing mindfulness, going for a walk or hike (remember to practice social distancing), or getting lost in a good novel, set some time aside to relax and recharge.
Tips to Support Students
Now, more than ever, students need strong connections with their educators and help building their social and emotional skills. Here are some ways SEL can help.
- Strengthen your relationships with your students. As an educator, one of the strongest impressions you can make on students is how you make them feel. When students feel their teachers care about them and want what’s best for them, they are more likely to engage, enjoy school, perform well, work hard, cooperate, and follow class rules and policies.
- Be a listening ear. Some students don’t have an adult at home who they feel they can turn to in times of need. Encourage students to talk to you about their feelings and help them work through any stress or anxiety they may have. Keep the communication going through email, online chat, text message, virtual meeting spaces, or an old-fashioned phone call.
- Identify those students who need extra support. Some students are going to need extra supports. Those who display high emotions, disrupt class, or seem withdrawn often need additional help. But other students may also need extra help, even if they don’t initially show symptoms that they are struggling. Make a list of your students and rank how well you think you know them. Make a point of learning more about the students who are at the bottom of your list — often these students can benefit the most from extra attention.
Tips to Support Families
Involving families in teaching and practicing SEL is an important way to strengthen students’ social and emotional skills. Encourage families to continue SEL instruction at home. Here’s how:
- Help families understand the importance of SEL. Make sure your students’ families know what SEL is and why it’s important. Make sure parents understand that SEL can help students:
- Stay focused and engaged in learning
- Work through emotions like stress, fear, anxiety, and trauma
- Remain connected with educators and peers
- Achieve academic success
- Share SEL resources families can use at home. A great resource for families to learn about SEL and start building their children’s social-emotional skills is our Parent Portal. We’ve recently refreshed this portal to make it even easier for parents to access resources such as:
- SEL basics Informal conversation scripts about SEL
- A description of the importance of collecting students’ SEL data
- Free SEL Growth Strategies
These past couple of years have been challenging, to say the least. But fostering social and emotional skills in your students and yourself will help to carry you through tough times. We at Aperture Education wish to thank all the educators who are working so hard to support students and families!