July 13, 2021

How educators can make up for lost time next school year

In June of 2021, United States Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona said, “It is my expectation that all schools will offer full-time and in-person learning to every student this fall.”

This is welcome and hopeful news after a trying school year. A study by McKinsey & Company showed that the past year of remote learning could mean a learning loss of 12.5 months. How can schools address this lost time? What happens when this fall students are behind in social-emotional skills, soft skills, and academic performance simultaneously?

With the pressure on educators and students, social-emotional learning creates a consistent school-wide language and approach that builds an important foundation for accelerating academic performance

Summertime (after a serious vacation) is a great time to get ready and get set for a strong, refreshed start this fall.

Andrea Jenkins, a longtime senior educator, sat down for a Q&A session to share tips on summer prep. 

Challenges of SEL in K-12 Schools

Why do you believe social-emotional learning matters to schools?

SEL offers teachers language to use that is directed towards community building within a school. It also gives students the ability to take part in that community building. The SEL I have experienced creates a community that gives students great ownership over their space and their learning. It also helps change your language as a teacher to not talk at kids but rather pull them into a conversation.

As a school administrator, what challenges have you seen schools face with social-emotional learning?

During my 20 years of working as a teacher and a senior administrator, we found that the key is buy-in.  And buy-in is all about starting with the school’s core objectives or principles. Aligning our SEL program objectives with the school’s strategy helped the entire school see the importance of this work.

The schools where I worked were able to widely accept SEL because it was something that the whole school could implement and adopt. Oftentimes, you’ll find that SEL programs only consist of occasional, 1-hour seminars or counselors constantly playing catch-up when challenging situations arise.  This unintegrated, reactive approach simply never worked. However, when you have a school-wide approach, I’ve seen a much stronger impact.

How did schools approach training on SEL in your past experience?

I hadn’t heard of #WinAtSocial at the time, so my previous schools had a different approach to SEL. In one program, I trained on three separate times at three different schools, and I never had a go-to person who knew the program in its entirety. Teachers and administrators relied on each other. This was a challenge because we were all learning the program at the same time. I really would have appreciated a thought partner and someone who could have helped me along the way, because I never knew if I had the right answer to certain SEL ideas and competencies.

In my past experience, training meant day-long, or even week-long, workshops and hours spent combing through manuals. It was grueling.

The #WinAtSocial Program addresses this challenge with asynchronous onboarding, a turnkey approach for teachers, and a dedicated Partner Success Manager to respond to questions. 

Instead of a flood of information at the beginning and then silence, like I see with other programs, The Social Institute provides useful information throughout the year. 

How to Set up School Communities for Success with SEL

How have you seen administrators engage faculty and set them up for success with an SEL program?

As a former administrator, I know that the main priority with a program should be carving out time and creating the urgency for it. It’s our job as educators to understand that when students’ brains are pulled in so many different directions, they are not going to focus on what you are teaching them. So, if a student isn’t in the right headspace, they are not going to retain your curriculum, no matter how great the lesson you planned is. This is why it’s so important to focus on the child as a whole.

Can you explain families’ role in SEL within school communities?

More than anything, SEL is a partnership. I find that families fall into one of three categories. The all-in parent/caregiver who wants to tackle SEL together with teachers and addresses it at home; the parent/caregiver who values SEL but wants the school to focus on it; and finally, the parent/caregiver who views the school as an academic institution only. 

Recently, there has been a shift towards families really wanting to partner with the schools on SEL, because it has gotten away from what they know, or are comfortable with. Recognizing that and asking the school what they can do to pull kids into that conversation at home is amazing. It’s very powerful when you have the student, parent, and teacher all having the same conversation.

Summertime and the Importance of SEL

How much of your summer did you spend prepping for SEL?

Even over the summer, teachers never stop working. They do use summers to recharge, but they also read books and leverage social media and professional networks to learn about recently released best practices and educational resources. I encourage teachers to dig into their networks, like CASEL and other experts, to find avenues of continual SEL material.

What can school communities do to prevent SEL “slide” over the summer?

Staying connected is huge. One gift that came out of the COVID-pandemic is that our boundaries are blurred now, meaning there is more of a connection between home and school in a student’s life. If you are an advisor, you can reach out to your kids over the summer to check-in. Or, you can email them or host a Zoom lunch.

This continual connection tells students that someone else cares and is looking out for them. This ability to ask them about their lives and their well-being habits puts SEL back on their radar. It reminds them to be mindful.

What tips can you give educators who are currently planning the SEL curriculum for the new year?

First, prioritize it. The tip is to know that you’re going to need SEL. Understand that it’s something the kids will need you to focus on this year. 

Second, know that it is ever-evolving. Don’t feel like you need to figure it all out by the time the kids return to school. You don’t have to have all the answers. That was always a big concern of mine. Remember that there is great value in asking students questions and entering into a conversation with them, instead of lecturing at them. They might not be looking for an answer from an adult, but rather a guide to walk alongside them.

Third, don’t be afraid to take something on that will serve students well. Set aside time to learn more about SEL and its benefits. When you focus on the whole child, that is when students really excel. 

Want to know more about The Social Institute’s engaging, turnkey SEL program that is student-tested and approved?

Contact us to request a demo of the #WinAtSocial Program.

About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, families, and educators to positively navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology. Schools access our student-respected, turnkey curriculum through WinAtSocial.com, an interactive, gamified learning platform. With solutions for students, parents, and educators, we offer a systemic and comprehensive SEL program through a unique and positive approach. We are proud to serve public and independent partners such as Ravenscroft School, Woodward Academy, Oldfields School, All Saints Episcopal School, Lake Forest School District, Boston Public Schools, and more. For more information on how to empower your students to make high-character decisions online and off, please contact us.