It is obvious that teachers have always been important in the academic lives of special needs students. Less commonly known however is that there is a growing movement encouraging teachers to become more involved in their students’ emotional and social needs as well.
For the past few years, schools such as North-Grand High School in Chicago have made it a priority to focus on social and emotional learning, or SEL. SEL refers to a student’s ability to express emotions appropriately, show empathy for others, build positive relationships and generally make good decisions. It allows teachers to better connect with their students, which is likely to improve academic performance. This is especially the case for students in special education and those with severe behavioral issues.
SEL refers to a student’s ability to express emotions appropriately, show empathy for others, build positive relationships and generally make good decisions.
Identifying Emotional Struggles
Traditionally there has been a bit of an emotional and social disconnect between teachers and students. In the past, teachers were often seen as stern authority figures with the job of presenting lessons, while at the same time, making sure that kids didn’t cause trouble. Obviously, some teachers had better connections with their students than others. Still many lacked the ability to identify a student’s social-emotional issues: the exact skillset that SEL teaches. The new emphasis on SEL better prepares teachers to identify student’s emotional and social struggles so that they can react accordingly. For example, a student that was found to be homeless and staying at a different home every night, might understandably be late for school. Instead of outright punishing the student for their tardiness, teachers might instead take a problem-solving and empathetic approach and learn how their student’s current situation may be affecting him. A vital element to all of this is to identify students who are struggling socially and emotionally.
The approach seems to be working and is easily applied to special education. Not surprisingly, many special education students find themselves struggling emotionally. Special education students often have difficulty expressing their emotions in healthy and appropriate ways, and while they are given some latitude, it’s still important that teachers connect with them. It’s been proven time and again that students with special needs can be very successful when they are given the chance to succeed.
A teacher that acts with empathy and tends to social emotional learning for special education students can make a big difference, both socially and academically. Teaching social and emotional programs generally leads to better performance and fewer discipline problems. Emotional and social well-being is just as important as academic learning, so it’s time for educators and teachers to implement SEL with their students.
A teacher that acts with empathy and tends to social emotional learning for special education students can make a big difference, both socially and academically.
[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]At James Stanfield, We Think You Should Know:
Research shows that students need to develop social and emotional intelligence to be successful in life. At Stanfield, we believe that for students with special needs, social skills are a better predictor of success in life than academic achievement. Consequently, our programs integrate VideoModeling and social and emotional learning (SEL). These Stanfield methods effectively teach special needs students SEL skills such as the ability to recognize how another person is feeling, and how to moderate their emotional response in difficult situations. See the BeCool program as well as others, in the Stanfield library by clicking here![/box]
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.