This morning came the news that we are expected to do “shelter-in-place” to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the county where I live. While some communities are not there yet, others have been quarantined for weeks now. Wherever you are, you have been in my thoughts as I know the many difficult decisions that schools, families and communities are making for the benefit of us all. It is a time that asks for individuals to choose their best actions and take responsible health measures.
During this difficult period, the need to use our social and emotional skills becomes even more important. When we get paralyzed by fear, it is hard to think clearly and make good decisions for ourselves, our families, and our students. So start by checking in with yourself—what are you feeling? Allow yourself to notice those emotions, even if they are uncomfortable, and take the necessary steps to manage them. If you find yourself getting agitated from reading the news, take some time away from them. If you notice your thoughts focusing on all the negative things happening, choose to focus on something positive that is happening in your house or community, no matter how small. Appreciate the things that you are already doing to keep the virus away.
If your school has closed and you have moved to remote learning, you may be putting together resources for your students to do at home. While your focus is probably on academics—making sure students continue to read, write and do math—there are ways in which you can continue building a supportive learning community and helping students to use their social and emotional skills when they are at home.
Below you will find a list of ideas to continue your SEL work as you prepare for distance learning. Feel free to share with anyone who you think may find them useful, and send me a note if you need my support. I am here for you.
- Post SEL prompts for students to answer before they start their home school day. If students will be using technology, ask them to share their answer on the school’s learning platform. If not, have students write it down on a notebook. For example:
- What is something you are looking forward to today?
- What is one goal that you have for yourself?
- What are some skills that will help you stay focused today?
- Share something funny that recently happened.
- Share an encouraging morning message to your students. Students may feel isolated during this time. Let them know that you are thinking of them and supporting them from afar. If technology is available, you can create a video, record a voicemail or send a text message.
- Select readings that address SEL themes. Students may benefit from reading stories of other children overcoming challenges, being helpers in their communities or showing solidarity towards others.
- Share free transition tools for parents to use at home, especially those that students can recognize. For example, you may include websites for brain breaks such as gonoodle.com in your list of resources for parents or other tools that you use in class.
- Include suggestions for students to celebrate their work. For example, you can add one last step in your instructions that explicitly ask students to celebrate the things they get done—give yourself a sticker, pat yourself on the back or strike your favorite disco pose.
- Include key SEL handouts in your materials. If you are posting resources for students and families to use, include key SEL handouts that students have used in your classroom such as a list of calming down strategies or a wheel of emotion words.
- Whenever possible, encourage students to post questions and/or comments about the materials they are working on at home, and share your answers. Again, the idea is to keep the communication open, even if you and your students are not together in school.
- Provide resources for parents to discuss coronavirus with their kids. Many parents are not sure how much to discuss with their children, or even what to say. Share articles, such as this one that I recently published (available in Spanish too,) so parents can feel confident discussing this topic with their kids.
If you have other ideas, you can share them here and I will update the post. Thank you for all your efforts to keep our students engaged and supported during this difficult time.
Take good care and stay healthy.