Social-Emotional Learning for Educators?

Teacher at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
(Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

I wanted to follow-up J.R.’s piece yesterday on social-emotional learning after seeing this article on the U.S. Department of Education’s blog – “Educator Self-Care Is Social Emotional Learning.”

This week is National School Counseling Week (I wasn’t aware) so they had a guest article from Christy Lynn Anana, a nationally board-certified school counselor and registered yoga teacher, who was Washington State’s School Counselor of the Year in 2016.

She writes:

As a school counselor, I help teachers understand the most important thing they can do for children is to keep their own mood stable. When I come into their classrooms to teach students about breathing strategies, mindfulness, yoga and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), it is not just for the students but also to offer time for teachers to connect with their own breath.

Addressing our own “caught-upness” and keeping our own mood stable

Emotional awareness, empathy, anger/anxiety management and problem solving are the backbone skills that make up Social Emotional Learning. These are highly honed skills that educators use every day and every minute. When teachers and educators embody compassionate strategies like breathing, stretching and tapping, they increase their capacity and provide safe haven for students to practice these skills.

We can be curious about a child’s behavior. What is the child trying to communicate? We can always pair our curiosity with compassion. There have been times I have felt the same way. How can we serve to help the child communicate his/her feelings more effectively without getting “caught up” in the behavior?

Can we be kind to ourselves when we do get “caught up”?

Neuroplasticity and hope

When educators feel like they belong in a safe, inclusive, and positive school, they are able to structure an environment where students feel safe, included and hopeful about their futures. This is the foundation for emotionally healthy youth and providing a culturally responsive and trauma sensitive world.

SEL proponents believe Members of Congress need social-emotional learning, and, no surprise, they feel the same about educators.

I’d love to talk about the exercises she does with students in classes in her school because, frankly, they are rooted in eastern religious tradition (just doing yoga stretches and exercises in gym class is one thing, but pairing them with meditation and “mindfulness” exercises in an academic classroom is another). Some people flip out when prayer at school is discussed, but they allow this?

But, I digress.

Back to the educators, as a person who worked with youth including high-risk youth for 20 years, I knew the importance of taking care of myself (not to say I always did a good job of doing that). This is not new. If you don’t, it’s easy to burn-out. The same is true with teachers. We need to get enough sleep, exercise, eat right, and learn what helps us reduce stress.

This is common sense and common knowledge. We don’t need to wrap it up in the social-emotional learning lingo and have it promoted on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.