6. Nurture Diversity and Empathy
Considering multiple perspectives and appreciating those from diverse backgrounds and cultures are integral SEL competencies. Addressing the ongoing issues of racial disparity, social justice, and equity can help unify communities, rather than divide them. SEL includes having empathy for others, the ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and showing respect for others, according to CASEL. Particularly during these challenging times of anxiety and uncertainty, listening to each other’s experiences and showing empathy towards others helps bring communities together. Understanding that one’s experience may greatly differ from someone else’s is important to acknowledge, and demonstrates that we each have unique stories to share while collectively experiencing a common trauma. Promoting respect for all rather than harboring discriminatory thoughts and behaviors is essential for the educator to model and for all to exercise in daily interactions.
7. Serve as a Confidante to Promote Responsible Decision-Making
Responsible decision-making centers around the individual’s ability to make respectful and constructive decisions around issues related to the self and in social situations in everyday life, according to CASEL. Serve as a confidante for students when they need to make difficult decisions, as this not only strengthens a trusting relationship but also develops students’ problem-solving and analytical skills.
8. Establish a Sense of Belonging
A sense of belonging in the school and classroom is essential to students’ feelings of comfort and readiness to learn. Creating bonds with peers, educators, and others at school, and establishing feelings of school belonging, are also key factors in preventing misconduct, research shows. Whether online, face to face, or a mix of both, promoting a sense of belonging and connection leads to happier and more engaged learners. For example, beginning the day or class by asking a question of the day or week leads to students sharing information about interests, family, and community values. Educators and leaders collaboratively create an environment where all students feel like they fit, are safe, and can continue to grow and learn.
9. Build Relationships
Research illustrates that building and strengthening the relationships that students form with educators, and with each other, plays an important role in their face-to-face and remote learning environments. In positive relationships built on mutual feelings of care, trust, and safety, students’ emotional well-being, positive sense of self, and social and academic skills are promoted. Hold office hours to provide a safe haven for students to discuss their feelings. Schedule one-on-one check-ins with each student—especially those who may be exhibiting depression, stress, and/or anxiety issues.
10. Partner with Mental Health Professionals
Build and deepen relationships with mental health professionals within and outside the school. As a school or district, prioritize investments in social workers, guidance counselors, and psychologists when possible. Educators can serve as liaisons with health care professionals to identify students who may need additional follow-up counseling support.
By proactively ending this school year—and starting the next one—by addressing the social and emotional needs of students, the adults who care for them, and ourselves, we as educators can provide a supportive environment that will accelerate learning. Focusing on SEL can help to mitigate the pandemic’s negative impact on all aspects of our lives. We have children who are near and dear to us whom you are helping to navigate this challenging time, and we’re very grateful. You are teaching us that distance and remote learning are just terms of delivery—but not ones that have to describe relationships. We are learning the value of making connections and being better together.
Learning didn’t stop during the pandemic. It just took new forms. This article is part of a series of resources focused on COVID learning recovery and designed to help you plan now for summer school and next year.
This blog post, originally published July 2020, has been updated for spring 2021.