School Counseling and Social-Emotional Learning Move Online

Kelly Muic
Kelly Muic
Grade School Principal; Ed.D. in Leadership and Administration, Point Park University, PA
Girl sitting at a table holding her head using a laptop.

The social-emotional component to learning is crucial to the overall educational experience.

Teaching and learning include a daily social connection that is an essential part of a child’s social and emotional development. While children are learning core academic content, they are also learning essential skills needed for effective life functioning. Teachers and school counselors promote and enhance students’ connection to school, encourage and teach positive behavior expectations, in addition to developing appropriate social emotional skills. So now that schools are closed and social distancing and online learning have become the new norm, we must adapt and apply new ways to provide these experiences to students.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of how children develop and apply knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to appropriately deal with emotions and feelings; to develop determination, perseverance and general goal setting; and to develop healthy and positive relationships with others. Teachers, school counselors, and administrators play major roles in providing social-emotional learning experiences. When the school is taken away, how can these important experiences still be provided to students?

Challenges Students are Facing

There are many challenges students are dealing with during this time of school shutdown and isolation. Students are facing online or distance education challenges. Children and adolescents are dealing with general adaptability issues due to the sudden shift in educational delivery. Many students are faced with having to manage their time and motivate themselves depending on the level of parental support available in the home.

In addition, there are general technology issues that arise due to lack of internet connectivity and devices. Computer literacy and digital citizenship literacy could be additional issues that students and their families may be facing. Staying safe while using digital tools and communicating with others has now become a huge concern.

Students are facing equity issues that are not just in the realm of technology. There is a wide range of variability in terms of parental support due to either parents working from home or having to work outside the home. Parental support to monitor student emotions and school work could differ from household to household. In addition, parental emotional issues could be present due to anxieties over lack of adequate economic support and/or health and wellness concerns about the family. All of which could impact a child’s overall wellbeing.

Most of all, students themselves are dealing with adjustments in overall life operations. Some children are dealing with extreme stress, anxiety, and depression issues. Adjusting to limited social exposure is difficult for the very social tween or teen, even if digital means are available. It is worse for those children who do not have the means to communicate virtually with their peers. Children may experience loneliness without enough social contact. In addition, adolescents may fear that their social status is in jeopardy without daily contact with their peers.

Tools Educators Can Utilize

There are many digital tools that can help students develop social-emotional skills while learning from home. Common Sense Media offers many options for educators to use such as an educator tool kit for social-emotional learning online that contains many resources to develop essential social-emotional skills. Teaching Tolerance offers educators many lessons, learning plans, and resources that focus on social justice and anti-bias. The non-profit media station, KQED, offers free media literacy teaching as well as many resources for both students and teachers.

In addition to these websites, there are many apps that can be used by teachers to reach students and help address issues that they are facing and serve as online school counseling. These apps can also be used as tools to develop social-emotional skills by offering strategies to cope with negative feelings they may be experiencing during this time. Apps that can help children would be Positive Penguins, Smiling Mind, Emotionary, and Live Happy. Apps that can be used by adolescents would be Calm, MoodMeter, and even Minecraft: Education Edition. Please visit the App Store to download or purchase these apps.

Other Counseling and SEL Strategies to Consider

Teachers and school counselors can create participatory environments that assist students in interacting with their peers. They can offer students virtual meetings and make regular calls to students to check in. The Council for Exceptional Children offers various ways to talk to children and adolescents about the emotions they are feeling and offers ways to cope during this time. They offer many tools and resources for teaching remotely while attending to students’ social and emotional issues.

Social and emotional skills can still be developed even during this time of learning from home and social distancing. Teachers can still create a social learning experience while students are learning from home by creating interactive assignments. SEL topics can be selected within the texts students must read or incorporated into academic writing and research assignments. Even topics such as preventing substance abuse and character education can easily fit into English language arts or social studies assignments.

With the many collaborative tools that exist such as Google Applications for Education, students can still develop communication and collaboration skills. They can work with their peers on assignments as well as see and talk to their classmates. Teachers can monitor and facilitate live sessions to ensure that interactive experiences are safe and supportive. The important aspect to remember is that interactions with others is crucial to develop SEL skills and to help students cope.

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