Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a critical aspect of student development and plays an important role in closing equity gaps. Along participated in a conversation about how to incorporate SEL practices and cultivate students’ sense of belonging as part of the recent webinar “Creating Intentional Spaces for SEL in 2022” presented by Educators for Excellence (E4E).
The event kicked off with the question, “What would it look like if classrooms were centered around relationships?” Leona Fowler, a middle school special educational support teacher based in New York City, noted that trust is key to creating a space centered on collaboration.
Along’s Learning and Development Manager, Susan Menkel, shared that students are more motivated and goal oriented when they have a feeling of safety, acceptance, and belonging in their school.
Research shows that when students feel accepted by their teachers and believe their school is a fair place, they are more likely to engage in their academics and have a growth mindset. When students have just one trusting adult relationship, they are also more likely to experience positive academic and non-academic outcomes, such as physical and mental health, social-emotional development, and identity development. However, the challenge is, HOW can educators support students by prioritizing relationships alongside academics?
For Shirley Jones Luke, a 9th grade ELA teacher in Boston, the answer is to incorporate SEL into the school day each and every day, not just at the beginning of the school year. Educators “need to create an oasis in the classroom,” she said. “Students need a sense of comfort when they enter your classroom. That’s key to anything you want to accomplish. When my students walk in, they know they are in a safe space and they can learn and grow together.”
Participants also shared their best practices for creating safe classroom spaces for their students. Welcoming students with a smile, providing genuine eye contact when listening to your students, and using music or dance to create a fun and safe space were just some of the ideas suggested.
Along, which is free for K-12 educators, provides a fun and easy way to build these teacher-student relationships. Educators can choose from a library of research-informed reflection questions that were designed to allow students to open up about what’s really on their mind. Students can respond back in the way they feel most comfortable, either through text, audio, or video, and they can do so without peer pressure because their answers are only viewable by their teacher.
To learn more about SEL practices and to see a demo of Along, watch the full webinar here.