Even before there was a name for it, I have always put the emotional needs of students first. I am oftentimes asked how do you implement SEL into instruction? My answer is always start by asking them how their night and morning went with a form of embrace. That’s it! Social-emotional learning is not some sort of program that your district can purchase, although I know they are out there. No, the first step to implementing social-emotional learning is to honestly and genuinely care about the well-being of your students. It’s really that simple. Now I know I may be coming across as a know-it-all or an angry Black woman (nothing new), but it truly begins with caring.
I won’t say it’s easy to set aside how you’re feeling, whether it be sad, happy, achy, but as an educator, it is what we do. Think about it, parents do it all the time. In a way, teaching (to me) is like motherhood, and before you ask or wonder, no, I don’t have any children of my own. But, the children I have taught, the children of my friends, my niece, nephews… my children. You don’t have to have children to want the best for them, to treat them like human beings, to love them unconditionally. I never considered it until a Principal (Dr. Linebarger) brought it to my attention. Out of all of our encounters, and we have had a few (LOL), it stands out to me. That letter he wrote for me for Teacher of the Year in ’14 means a lot to me. Thank you, Dr. Linebarger.
I am the guru of nothing. I just have a lot of feelings (LOL) and I let them lead me. Here are some ideas off the top of my head that easily acknowledges the social-emotional needs of your children:
- Greet your students with whatever form of embrace they would like (my students loved hugs… granted I taught grades PreK-1)
- Ask them about their morning and how they’re feeling
- Read books about feelings, friendship, self-esteem, etc. (here’s a list to get you started)
- Throughout the day, spark conversations that interest them and use their interests in planning lessons
- Share your interests, fears, goals, etc. with them
- Model the behavior you want to see in them
- Before the day ends, reflect on the day with them including what they liked most and what they disliked most
- Allow them freedom to decompress (if a child is sleepy, give them some time to rest… may not work in middle and high school)
- Build a relationship with them (children don’t learn from people they don’t like or respect)
So, that’s just some of the things I did with my children (yes, children). There wasn’t a set standard for any of it, but in hopes to be the person for them that I needed at their age, I ALWAYS made an effort to put their emotional and mental health first.