Dear Dr. Linda,
A colleague told me that we have to incorporate an SEL program, Social Emotional Learning, into our lessons when school opens in September. She also said that it has to include our students’ parents too. I have three questions. First, do you know if this is true? Secondly why would parents need to be involved? Thirdly, how would we involve parents?
Beth, fourth grade teacher
SEL, or Social and Emotional Learning, is most likely going to become part of the elementary school curriculum in many districts, once school opens, whether online or in a class. The reason for this is simple. It’s needed. The world is living through one of the most difficult times in history and our children are part of that world.
During good times, in order for students to do well in school cognitively, they need to be emotionally and socially healthy first. Many adults are falling apart emotionally and socially during this pandemic. Imagine what’s going on in children’s minds during this time! They can’t play with their friends, can’t be with extended family, need to wear masks when they go out, can’t go to their favorite take-out-food places, may not have enough money or food, or may have lost a loved one. The social and emotional impact, in addition to the cognitive, is great.
Since our society depends on the school systems to educate our children, they’re being turned to for support in helping children emotionally and socially. Curriculum directors are researching the best programs on each grade level. You, the classroom teacher, will most likely not be deciding which program to use.
Most programs do not include parents, but your colleague, whom I assume is in your district, mentioned that parents would be involved. Why? Because social and emotional learning begins at home with mother, father, grandparents and siblings. It then moves to elementary school teachers. These are the significant others in a child’s life that help children become emotionally and socially healthy. Even though schools will be providing SEL programs to each class, it is simply a supplement and hopefully not the main source of learning. No matter how much money is spent on a program, if the adults around that child are not socially and emotionally healthy, by doing such things as berating the child or threatening the child, the benefits of the program will be little if any.
Think back to your school days, including college. How did you perceive that your parents and teachers perceived you? Do you remember anything a parent or teacher said or did that you perceived as a compliment? How did you feel and how did it affect your excitement about learning?
Do you remember anything a parent or teacher said or did that you perceived as a put down? Was there a moment you remember in which one of them criticized or embarrassed you? Did it negatively affect your enthusiasm for the task at hand?
As our identities develop, especially in the early stages, we depend on the positive and negative responses of those around us to help us begin to label ourselves in descriptive ways (I’m nice, I’m bad, I’m smart, I’m dumb, I’m lazy, I’m a hard worker…). Chances are high that it was far easier for you to remember a negative incident or incidents. Why? Because, although both positive and negative feedback have impact on the opinions we have of ourselves, the effects of negative feedback are stronger and provide a bigger blow to our senses of self-esteem, leaving scars that we remember forever.
So, to answer your third question, I recommend a program that includes parent and teacher workshops on their part in social and emotional learning. And, just because you may send homework sheets to do with parents, unfortunately that doesn’t mean the parent knows how to respond to their child’s needs. We’re not all born with an instinct on how to promote emotionally and socially healthy children. Many parents and teachers did not come from homes where their parents or grandparents even thought about that. And that’s okay. It’s never too late to learn and change the dance.
To parents and teachers: In these unprecedented times, if you have any concerns about where your child is academically or need a few suggestions, please feel free to pick up your phone and call me at 845.628.7910 or email me at Linda@stronglearning.com for a free consultation.