This year has seen the United States come face to face with inequity in many fields and one of them is school communities. We know that the children who suffered most during the spring of remote learning were overwhelmingly black and brown, low-income, and/or neurodiverse.
In terms of policy behavior there has always been inequity between black, brown and white schools. For instance, white children don't face with physical police presence in schools or submitting to metal detectors as they enter a building. But what if, especially in the era of remote learning, policing can extend beyond the walls of school buildings?
In such schools policing can take the form of student-behavior-management techniques masquerading as social-emotional learning. SEL is intended as a framework for learning that teaches students to understand and respond to their own emotions and those of the people around them. Of late, there’s been a renewed surge of interest in SEL. But when SEL is pitched to schools as a trendy way to regulate student behavior, we’re missing the point.
In order to create an educational space, virtual or in person, that nourishes social and emotional health, the following aspects should be considered:
- creating classroom norms that every student contributes and commits to.
- instead of requiring students to turn their cameras on, cultivating a space where they feel safe and comfortable enough to want to.
- extending the same practices and the same options toward all students, no matter how they look or how they learn.
- realizing that we can’t expect children to succeed in school until they are not only fed, sheltered, and safe but also known, seen, and loved.
Social-emotional learning works—not only because it improves academic outcomes, but also because it helps young people be active partners in their own education. But in order for this vision to become reality for all children, we must ensure that SEL remains a mechanism for positive, relationship-building interactions rather than traumatizing ones.