Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Social and Emotional Learning and the Start of School

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

From a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) point of view, the most important consideration at the start of the new school year is to create positive feelings and optimism about school. This has many practical implications for both educators and parents.

Here are seven ideas to keep in mind:

Number One

Make a special effort to greet children in a positive and uplifting way at the start of school. Create a festive atmosphere, not a "get down to business" factory atmosphere.

Number Two

Highlight all the good and exciting things that will be happening at the beginning of the school year, as well as throughout the year.

Number Three

Give students a chance to share good memories about the summer, what they are looking forward to for the new school year, and something about themselves that they would like classmates to know. Time spent helping the students in a class bond in positive ways will bring large dividend later in the year as students work together in pairs, teams, and groups.

Number Four

Allow students to have input into setting the rules for the classroom, in terms of both "do's" and "don'ts."

Number Five

Give students an opportunity each day to reflect on what they are learning. Ask them to keep a journal and write down, at the end of the day, three things they are taking with them from the school day. Have them keep daily journals in one or some or all subject areas where, at the end of a class period or unit or project, they write down three things they are taking away from that unit of work.

Number Six

Parents, the parallel of all these apply to you. Keep the first days of school very positive. Allow time for routines to kick in. Don't get upset if your child is running late, or forgets things. Make it clear that you understand and expect by the end of the first week of school, routines will be set and work well. Ask your child for suggestions about ways to modify the routines that are not going well.

Also, after school, ask your child to share the best parts of the school day. Later, ask your child what they are looking forward to most the next day. Please note the words, "best" and "most." These are relative terms, so there will be a "best" part of a bad day and something to look forward to "most" even where the day is dreaded. In that way, you keep the focus positive. Remember, school is much more than classes. Asking about hallways, announcements, and things other than academic classes may garner special conversations.

Number Seven

Teachers and parents should share what the school is doing around social-emotional and character development, health, and such key areas as prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Parents, if you are not given this information proactively, seek it out. Teachers, your best hope for continuity and reinforcement of school messages out of school is if parents know what it is that their children are being taught!

The essence of SEL is to be sure that the adults dealing with children understand that the gateway to learning is through children's social and emotional skills and experiences. Opening that gateway at the start of the school year will lead to a smoother path during all subsequent days.

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
Related Tags:

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

SE Tarrah's picture
SE Tarrah
Middle School Special Education Teacher from GA

I love the positive aspects you have here. I have quite a few EBD students and I try to keep this school setting positive and show the students a relationship that is healthy.
I do have to "get down to business" fairly quickly as I am a middle school teacher and we have a lot to do that first week, but I try to have get to know you activities as well.
Thanks for this input!

TZ

SHARON GARCIA's picture

This is exactly what I have been saying for over seven years now. I was working at a special campus, where the students were labeled "AT RISK" by their 5th grade teacher, along with a low test score on a state mandated test. When I first applied with the school principal, she had the very same idea. In order for us to reach these children, we need to make sure that all of their Maslow's Hierachy of needs are met, and if they have an area of need, then WE need to meet that need. The first two years I worked there were awesome. It was a small campus, had 3 rows of classrooms with about 18- 20 faculty and staff members.I enjoyed it so much because it felt like a family of educators all working together for one reason. My third year there, the principal who had hired me, was going to retire and that left an opening that was filled by the current V.P. It was a difficult year to begin with, this new administrator didn't understand where the kids were coming from. She, apparently was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and was a daddy's girl, which there is nothingwrong with, but she didn't have a clue as to the lives these students came from. I tried to explain it to her, that as an educator, I must first win their trust and know that I am not "one" of those adults who will hurt them in any way, whether it is verbal,or nonverbal abuse. I have always believed in respecting the student at all cost. We are their models, if we cannot show them what it looks like to treat someone with respect and courtesy, then how will they ever learn. Eventually, I became frustrated with the administration and turned in my letter of resignation at the end of that school year. I was sad and felt remorse, because I knew those kids needed a teacher like me, but for my own health reasons, I could no longer work there. It sure is nice to know that I wasn't just being silly or crazy for wanting to nurture middle school students, after all they are still adolescents with frail self-esteems. Thanks for letting me share.

Kim's picture

I believe that both student and teacher reflection is crucial to a successful learning environment. However, in my experience it should not be a task or something which is too repetitive. In our class we reflect 2 times a week on what I call an 'exit card' so before they leave they have to reflect on something that they learned in an exit card journal. In addition to the exit card, every friday we have what is called community circle (we are a grade 1 class) where we sit an reflect on a question about our learning that week, eg. What was the most interesting thing this week? What could I change for next week? I am proud of... That way it is not overdone. We also have a classroom award every week where their peers praise one another for something they did. Then in our community circle every Friday 1 student gets an award for doing something Caring, open-minded, empathetic etc. We started the year doing exit cards every day and the kids found it a bit monotonous. As for the blog itself, some great ideas to start and continue throughout the year!

SEL4Mass.org's picture
SEL4Mass.org
SEL Alliance for Massachusetts

As a basketball coach of twenty-five years, I found that the ideas you set out apply to all youth and school sports teams.

It's pretty simple. People like to be happy and they perform better when they are happy.

So what creates happiness? I ask kids if they feel good or bad about themselves when they work really hard. The answer is a natural. "Then let's work on making you feel good about yourself by working really hard".

Same with this question: Do you feel good or bad about yourself when you help and are supportive with other people? Good? Then we will be practicing that skill for the next two hours.

Social-emotional learning is the umbrella under which sport psychology falls. They both show the same thing. Create a good environment that people want to be in and test scores go up and shots go in.

Well done, Maurice.

Melody L. Polson's picture
Melody L. Polson
secondary English teacher... 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th so far... ELL certifi

I'm a fan of Top 20 training. The originators are northern-midwest...I'm in Nevada, and traveling was worth every penny.
top20training.com
It is necessary. We're expecting kids to make good choices, but we're not spending the time to show them how it works. Life has changed, and it really is up to us to make the difference.

Patricia Ort's picture
Patricia Ort
High school reading, computer, and social studies teacher from Michigan.

We are restructuring our alternative high school program. One focus we have from the start is building relationships with our students. We have some materials targeted at building EQ, but Top 20 sounds worth looking into. Thanks for sharing this.

Patricia Ort's picture
Patricia Ort
High school reading, computer, and social studies teacher from Michigan.

We are restructuring our alternative high school program. One focus we have from the start is building relationships with our students. We have some materials targeted at building EQ, but Top 20 sounds worth looking into. Thanks for sharing this.

Patricia Ort's picture
Patricia Ort
High school reading, computer, and social studies teacher from Michigan.

I know exactly what you are talking about. We just survived 4 years of an administrator who thought our alternative high school program should be just like the high school. It is too bad you resigned. I hope you will find another place where you can get back to building relationships with your students. Our story has a happier ending. We now have a new superintendent and new program administrator who both fully support this sort of approach to education. We are finally going to be able to build a program that includes building relationships with our students.

jabseko's picture

I don't think it's an good idea because you are just wasting your time. Do one thing at a time as it will best for you in the long run. Capsiplex Reviews There are other factors you have to look first.

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.