This back-to-school year don’t just prioritize SEL but focus on the social and emotional skills that will be most important after a year of non-traditional learning. Here are our top recommendations based on the CASEL Framework, the predominant SEL framework in US K12 schools.
1. Start with Relationship Skills
Typically students naturally develop Relationship Skills through daily in-school interactions with peers and adults. The last year disrupted typical adolescent development and replaced it with the unnatural feedback of zoom screens, likes, and trolling on social media. As a result, most students will need to (re-)develop the foundation for strong peer and adult relationships BEFORE they are ready to learn and re-engage in school in traditional ways. Without this foundation, you are likely to see a large increase in poor decisions, unhealthy habits, and struggling students.
Start the year by carving out time for peer relationship building independent of the classroom. Think Field Day at the beginning of the school year or Freshman Orientation for all ages. Also, make certain that every student has an adult who “sees them” and can provide a sense of belonging. Of course, recognize that rebuilding from a year of loss will require ongoing support, not simply a one day program.
2. Don’t socially engineer Social Awareness
Taking perspective and empathizing with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures, is rightly top of mind in most communities. However, remind yourself that most students might be more inwardly focused than usual. Understandably, students are worried about friendships, grades, fitting in, personal loss, and re-adjusting. Asking them to consider hypothetical conflicts, rather than actual ones, might be more than they can handle.
Rather than present conflicts, prepare faculty to recognize and address conflicts as they naturally arise. Train teachers to handle “in-the-moment” incidents with compassion and authenticity through whole class and individual conversations. Have a system in place to capture incidents and determine when broader interventions are necessary.
3. Recognize the fastest route to academic growth is through Self-Awareness
Of course schools should focus on academic results. No one knows the degree of learning loss, and the full amount will be discovered throughout the year, not just in the first week or month. The best way to engage, motivate and most effectively improve student outcomes has always been to teach students to recognize what they need and feel comfortable asking for support. The CASEL framework lists self-awareness first for good reason! Self-awareness and self-efficacy hasn’t always been critical. It’s just more essential this year because everyone needs to make up for lost time.
Admittedly we’re biased on this one, but we’ve got the science to back us up. Knowing how you learn, your cognitive skills, explains over 50% of learner outcomes. MindPrint’s new SELfe course for middle and high school students is designed to develop Self-Awareness and Self-Management skills. SELfe will teach students how to work most effectively in English, Math, Study Skills and Test Taking. Extension activities will authentically develop other CASEL skills of Social Awareness and Responsible Decision Making. Learn more about SELfe.