These days, words like bullying, isolation, suicide, peer pressure, and anxiety are more and more commonly used among students, parents, and educators. As educators, we hear these words and experience the reality of each. I’m reminded of a time when the expression, “Can’t we all just get along?” was first spoken during the height of gang wars in Los Angeles, when I was a new speech language pathologist in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
More than 30 years later, I now work at a 700-student elementary school in Washington state and I have a caseload of 50 students consisting of varying disabilities. Here, the topic of social-emotional learning (SEL) and those super-charged words are at the forefront of my caseload. As we forge ahead in 2019 and beyond with the goal of helping each student learn to his or her full potential, it’s more important than ever to address SEL.
Here are five ways our school has developed better SEL skills in our students and how you, too, can build positive social-emotional learning into everything you do in small group settings with all students. I keep these on my desk as a reminder and repeatedly go over them in my head as I start each new day.
1. Address ALL students you encounter with eye contact in conjunction with saying their name.
Eye contact and knowing names are two of the most important steps in building relationships. Adding a smile throughout the week when you see students on campus lets them know you see them and you care.
2. Ask relevant questions that are specific to their interests.
Take time to ask questions about activities, events, or people and things you have in common. This fosters relationship building, trust, and tells them you’re available and care about what matters to them.