George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teachers Need Support Around Social and Emotional Skills Too

Teachers Need Support Around Social and Emotional Skills Too

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Mindfulness. Collaboration. Self-advocacy. Regulation. 

These social and emotional skills are showing up increasingly in our lessons and in our classrooms. There's a growing consensus that just like we explicitly teach math and literacy, we should help students understand and gain mastery in the skills which will help them succeed in relationships of all kinds - with friends, family, peers, adults, themselves.

Don't teachers need those skills too? 

In this profession, we need to hone our own social and emotional skills to do the best work possible. We need to navigate the complexity of authentic relationship with students, coworkers, administration, families, and the community. We need to manage our own emotions so we can do the work. We need supportive community so we can make sense of what is hard and what is joyful about teaching.

We don't assume that students come to us with a fully functioning set of refined social and emotional skills. Although we can (and should) assume the best of one another as professionals, we should also acknowledge that every one of us needs support around further honing these abilities.

So how do we support one another and ourselves to do this? First, we should identify the skillset we need in our roles. Does your particular job require flexibility? Frustration tolerance? Ability to give and receive feedback? Reread your favorite materials on social/emotional learning for students with an eye toward your own skillset. 

Next, we can assess where we have strengths and where we have challenges. Check out the skills you identified that you need to be successful, and reflect on how you're doing with those skills. For me, I know that I do pretty well with feedback, but need lots of support around mindfulness and slowing down in tense moments. 

Now that we know what we need to work on, let's find resources. There are tons right here on Edutopia, and I would love to hear in the comments other favorite go-to places for working on your own skills. A personal favorite of mine is, which turns developing social/emotional skills into a game. 

Finally, let's take action. For me with my mindfulness goal, this might mean something as simple as putting a sticky note on my desk that says "slow down!" or as complex as starting a staff meditation group that meets twice a week before school. 

And just like that, I'm on my way to developing a new area of social and emotional strength that lets me better serve my students.

The best part? Through this process, I can now experience what it feels like to work on these skills - and better facilitate the same work for my students.

What skills will you develop? What social and emotional skills are essential in your role in school? What are some creative ways we can work on these together? 


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

Alex... Great discussion post. In the past few months I've been influenced by It shares the simple pleasures of life and slows me down from the frantic, making copies-calling parents-grading papers-planning lessons-answering emails-cleaning gum from the bottom of the desk- state I can get in as a teacher.
It has helped me develop the skill of mindfulness and being present in the moment.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

What a fantastic post Alex- I was just posting in my Administration Finance course about paying close attention to the social emotional needs of staff, especially as physical materials and human resources budgets are being cut all too much.

My current school did some goal setting as a staff this summer. We ended up with social/emotional goals for ourselves with every one being focused on mindfulness and physical health. So I looked around the room and said: "If the 500+ years of experience in this room can't do the mindfulness/physical health all that well, how can we expect our students to do it without explicitly teaching the skills."

Our entire staff having this discussion has gone a long ways to helping us keep the topics in the forefront as we move through the school year. In the past we have taken on way too much and ignored our overall health as a result. The staff now has a new healthier lens to view what we do and how much we attempt to take on. While we may drop that lens a few times this year, I think we will be a healthier (physically, socially, emotionally) come June.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

This is really important. I spent quite a few discussions this summer talking about what collaboration means and whether teachers have the skills for it. Then we talked a bit about how it can be taught (Critical Skills FTW!).

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

I have seen my principal put her staff's needs first by reinventing the staff meeting. If we don't need to tackle certain issues as a whole group, we don't. If she can manage whole group issues online (via Google Forms or her weekly notes), she does. And she knows the value of giving us time to chat together, share stories and just chill -- so she makes room for that kind of time.

When we came back to school this year, we were facing a stressful 1:1 roll-out of Chromebooks for 500 8th graders. She knew we (and she) had our plates overflowing with work stress, so for our first staff meeting? She handed it over to the Leadership teacher and a P.E. teacher, and they planned outdoor games for us to play. And that's all we did for our first staff meeting: hang out, play games, chat and chill. It was both invigorating and relaxing, and it honored our social/emotional needs.

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