“Just one small thought in the morning can change your whole day.” - Dalai Lama
In the past year cultivating empathy has become a need in every classroom, helping students and teachers navigate the challenges of our ‘new norm.’ We all realize two years in that the growing feelings of isolation, lack of community, and limited interaction have affected how our students engage and develop relationships. As we approach two years of masking, social distancing, hybrid learning, remote learning, and more, how can cultivating and nurturing empathy bring positive results to the classroom and beyond?
Research shows that incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) in instruction helps students understand and manage emotions, personal challenges and difficulties, and relationships with others. Consistent and dynamic SEL teaches students the skills they need to deal with life in and out of the classroom.
There has been an increased focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in recent years, with teachers working to incorporate strategies to help students recognize and manage their feelings and emotions. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “SEL can help all young people and adults thrive personally and academically, develop and maintain positive relationships, become lifelong learners, and contribute to a more caring, just world.”
Research shows that social and emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom helps students understand their emotions, how to deal with personal challenges and difficulties, and teaches them the skills needed to deal with life inside and outside of the classroom. To help teachers integrate SEL, Boxlight has planned a roundtable discussion with educators and industry experts focusing on how to ensure learning environments are supportive and responsive to SEL needs.
The landscapes of our classrooms have undoubtedly been changed this past year. Educators around the globe have been inspiring, demonstrating innovation and creativity in remote and hybrid classrooms. Technology has been at the forefront of lesson planning, design, and delivery allowing teachers to teach and students to learn.
Our children are experiencing a time in history that’s unique to us all. They have had limited connection with their teachers, classmates, and friends. They are seeing and hearing events on the news and in social media that can cause feelings of anxiety and fear. They might not be able to handle or process the emotions that are bubbling up. With more and more time spent on devices, our children – regardless of age – struggle with skills such as cooperation, conflict resolution, managing thoughts, and problem solving. Because of this, fostering social-emotional skills has been a focus in education since at least the 1990s.
Many educators would agree that there has been an increase with students displaying anti-social tendencies and a struggle with social skills over the past 10 years. There are different theories about the root cause of this, but one that I have heard recently seems very logical on the surface. It goes something like this: Adults and students are spending more time than ever interacting over devices (screens) and not face to face. This reality hurts students’ development because they are unable to interpret social cues, facial expressions, and voice inflection. This has resulted in students who struggle more with social skills like cooperation and conflict resolution than in previous generations when screen time was less frequent.
In the years that have followed the No Child Left Behind era, schools, teachers, and administrators have learned that a hyperfocus on reading and math doesn’t produce the best outcomes for students. We all knew that our students were so much more than a test, and now that we don’t have our entire system centered around these scores, we can refocus on what truly matters.
Many schools are discovering that students with strong social-emotional skills, especially in early childhood, have better outcomes and healthier lives over peers who do not. This probably doesn’t surprise most of us. Being able to cooperate, compromise, empathize, and negotiate are skills that help all of us be successful—much more so than a score on a test.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is critical in today’s classroom. Students need to be taught how to handle their emotions in order to be contributing members of society. Students don’t always come to school equipped with these skills, which makes our job of teaching them even more important.