We met virtually with Maria Mendez, Resource Specialist Teacher, Parent Engagement Lead, and former Restorative & College Culture Lead at Twentieth Street Elementary School to understand the important stage that social-emotional learning is taking during distance learning. Read more below.

Maria strongly believes that SEL helps students persevere through difficult times. 

How vital is social-emotional learning (SEL) for students at this moment? 

This is an unprecedented time. Social isolation has been hard for many students who are receiving their schooling online and have little or no direct contact with their friends and peers. The negative impact on mental health, which includes depression and anxiety, has been exacerbated by this pandemic. SEL has become so much more important because it provides them with the ability to feel connected and part of a larger learning community, of which students are an integral part. SEL creates a space where students can explore their feelings, become aware of their emotions, and empathize with others. SEL provides them with skills to develop resiliency and be able to navigate through stressful moments in their lives.

How are you implementing restorative practices and SEL at Twentieth Street for students and educators?

At Twentieth Street Elementary, all classes start their morning with a check-in. Students may be asked about how they are feeling or what has been on their minds. Through Zoom, teachers may choose to use polls to get a better understanding of what the general mood is in the classroom. Students can also use writing time to express how they are feeling and be prompted to share creative ways or positive examples to address anxiety. The concepts of resilience and having a growth mindset are permeated throughout the lessons. 

Do SEL initiatives help students grow academically?

Yes! Social-Emotional Learning initiatives help students grow academically. SEL includes helping students become aware of their strengths and view blind spots for improvement, and it promotes a growth mindset which helps students persevere when learning becomes difficult. It teaches students that it is okay to make mistakes and that they in fact learn through their mistakes. SEL helps foster a setting where students feel supported and respected.

What recommendations do you have for anyone wanting to implement SEL practices at home?

Families can incorporate SEL practices at home by building relationships based on respect and trust. Parents and other adults can model best practices by actively listening without interrupting one another, and by demonstrating empathy to one another. Through modeling these behaviors and speaking with heart, families and children can learn to acknowledge their feelings and learn to monitor and control their emotions in a positive way.