By: Hannah Miller
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the most important components of youth development. With students engaging in e-learning, seemingly trivial but valuable lessons have become more difficult to implement. Whether it’s having a conversation with a friend about who will take the next turn on the slide or discussing how it looks to feel “excited” or “disappointed”, SEL is critical. Especially for students, such as those experiencing homelessness, who may live in more isolated environments, the long-term impact of e-learning on social-emotional development is significant.
SEL and E-Learning
SEL is the process of developing self-management, self-awareness and interpersonal skills for all young people and adults.1 Community-based and collaborative educational environments enable youth and adults to achieve goals while simultaneously addressing various forms of inequality along the way. Among the many challenges of e-learning, students and faculty are unable to create trusting relationships in the same way. So much of the school day is spent getting through the curriculum, that students don’t have the opportunity to laugh, argue, discuss or create with one another outside of Google Classroom. Access, or lack thereof, to resources and additional help, such as speech pathologists and teaching assistants, puts students and teachers in the tough position of meeting district standards and fostering a sense of community. Especially for younger children, not having the physical space and resources to play with one another is significant.
For individuals living in the shelter setting, school often provides students with the one-on-one attention and recognition that they need. Social interactions are important, and students aren’t able to obtain that in the same capacity online. Additionally, students experiencing homelessness are more likely to be working in a communal space, meaning they likely have to wear a mask during the school day. Existing in a pandemic and having to wear a mask at all hours of the day provokes an environment of inequality, and even anxiety, as students not in a shelter setting can engage in class from the comfort of their own workspace. Additionally, not being able to express emotions behind a mask is expedited by working in a virtual space.
Resources for families, caregivers and faculty
Despite the challenges of incorporating SEL in e-learning, schools are making an effort to create time and space for those discussions. External organizations, including the Collaborative for Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Common Sense Education have created free resources such as videos, informative briefs and social platforms to supplement SEL in the classroom. The importance of having conversations, and creating spaces for individualized student support and community building during e-learning, cannot be understated. Even offering breakout rooms for students to socialize with each other, would be immensely beneficial for the student’s development and well-being.