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Back to School: And this year we are also teaching SEL!

One of the greatest concerns for principals and teachers who want to bring Social Emotional Learning to their schools is the potential push back they might get from their staff. SEL evangelists might be afraid that teachers will perceive Smud-day-9-630x424EL as something else they need to teach on top of continuing the transition to the Common Core, the new writing curriculum, iPads for all students, teacher evaluation, you name it… making them feel they C-A-N-N-O-T take on anything new. Read more

Teaching is an emotional practice

One of my first teaching assignments was in a public school in Barcelona. I met the principal and the dean of students the afternoon before starting my new position and was told: “This is a very difficult group of students, some with challenging behaviors. Do you think you can do it?”. I really wanted to teach at that school, so (even if I had my doubts) I said “Of course!”. I didn’t sleep at all that night… I was scared and felt unprepared.

During my doctoral dissertation, I asked teachers why they had decided to go into teaching. Their faces lit up while they described their passion to provide students with the opportunities they had growing up, being inspired by their own teachers or having a social justice purpose in life. These same teachers also shared concerns about staying in the teaching profession where the work hours are long, there is a lack of work-life balance and they are “emotionally drained” by the end of each school year.

Emotions are at the heart of what teachers do and why they do it. Teaching is an emotional practice and we can’t ignore that teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies, so they can successfully regulate their emotions and manage the stress that comes with teaching. If you take a look aSix Secondst Six Seconds model of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), you might find that some of these skills come naturally to you and others might require some additional development. Like with our students, as adults, we also have strengths and challenges when it comes to our social and emotional competencies.

 

Jones, Bouffard and Weissbourd (2013) also point out that these skills are influenced by context. If you work at a school or organization where gossip and complaints are the norm, you will tend to display more negative behaviors; while if you work in a supportive environment, you will be more inclined to successfully manage stress or ask/offer help when needed.

In any case, developing your social and emotional competencies is a good investment because it will improve the relationships with your students, provide a different outlook to your classroom management and (hopefully) reduce some burnout. These are some resources that I have found valuable in the development of my own competencies. Try them out!

  •  Assess your EQ competencies. This is normally based on a self-report, and it provides with specific feedback on your skills and a framework to apply EQ in and outside of the classroom. If you don’t know where to start developing your skills, this is a helpful first step. Email me if you want to learn more.
  • Cultivate self-awareness. Are you able to name your emotions and explain why you are feeling that way? Emotional awareness starts with our ability to identify how we feel, not only the obvious feelings, but also the ones that are hidden. Reflect on what your emotions are telling you about a particular situation.
  • Incorporate reflection into your day. Remember we discussed the importance of reflecting to learn with our students? Building a reflection time for adults is key to develop social and emotional competencies. This can be done during team or staff meetings at your school, or you can do it independently at a time that seems feasible and sustainable for your schedule. Just try to be consistent!

Teaching is an emotional practice and teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies in order to successfully regulate the stress that comes with teaching. Assessing your EQ competencies, cultivating self-awareness and incorporating reflection time into your day are a few strategies to get started developing your skills. What strategies are you using to build your social and emotional competencies? Please share!

How emotions affect learning, part 2

In an earlier post, I discussed the concept of emotion and offered a few suggestions to build self-awareness and self-management in your students. After reading the blog, did you start identifying your different emotional responses during the day? Did you find yourself paying more attention to how your emotions predispose you to act? Understanding how emotions work is key to build our awareness! Today, we’ll explore how emotions affect learning.

Students bring to the classroom emotions from life outside of school; they might be dealing with an ongoing stressful situation at home, like a divorce or a parent loosing their job, or maybe something more momentary, like an argument with a sibling. If students didn’t have a chance to manage their emotions before getting to school, they will need your support to cool off and re-focus before they can move on with their day.

In addition, students also experience emotions that originate in the classroom and that are especially relevant for students’ learning (Pekrun, 2014):

  •  Achievement emotions relate to success and failure resulting from classroom activities. Students might feel hope and pride can they examination stresshave been successful, but they can also feel anxiety, shame or fear of failure. Taking tests, for example, is an achievement activity that tends to create high levels of anxiety and stress in our students. These emotions will influence how students approach the task and how well they perform. Remember our discussion on growth mindset?
  • Topic emotions pertain to the topics/subjects presented in class. Students might feel excited about a new art class, disgusted with certain lab experiments or saddened by the fate of a character in a novel.
  • Social emotions relate to teachers and classmates, as students (and teachers) work together and interact in the classroom. Compassion, envy, sympathy, anger or social anxiety can be present at different times during the day with any and all of our students.

working together As a teacher, it might be difficult to respond to your students’ emotions at all times, while you manage the classroom and attend to academic content. However, there are things you can do to incorporate students’ emotions when you are planning and also during class.

  • Offer a variety of tasks and activities, so students can feel successful during your class/period, and combine both achievement and performance tasks. Building self-confidence in your students by providing opportunities for success and accomplishment is key to promote a joy for learning and to avoid achievement anxiety.
  •  Provide contents that are meaningful to students and, when possible, allow students to define their own learning. You can make tasks more meaningful by connecting content to students’ current interest or relating them to their career goals. When possible, give students autonomy to select tasks or topics for learning. Both of these strategies promote students’ engagement and offer opportunities to practice social and emotional competencies.
  • Build regular check-ins with students (both at the beginning and during the day/class). This can take the form of a classroom meeting, but could also be a silent activity where students quickly show you how they are feeling. Check out this example. You can also use check-in time to ask for feedback about lessons, classroom routines or particular projects students are developing.

Students bring emotions from life outside of school that influence their disposition to learning. In the classroom, students experience emotions based on the activities, topics and social interactions that are presented to them. Offering a variety of tasks and activities for students to feel successful, providing engaging content and allowing for students’ autonomy in learning are a few examples of strategies teachers can use to incorporate students’ emotions in their planning. And don’t forget to have regular check-ins with your students to continue building awareness!

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