Like every back-to-school season, educators are busy preparing lessons and routines for when students return  in the fall. But this year is different. Schools are grappling with many unknowns — new school policies, a potential return to virtual learning, homeschool options, and other pandemic-related challenges.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) can help you navigate the uncertainty, stress, and changes schools will face this year. We’ve outlined CASEL’s five social-emotional competencies and how you can use these skills to  foster your own resiliency.

Self-Awareness

It is important to diligently check in on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. While it is normal to experience feelings of reservation, doubt, fear, stress, etc.,  when these feelings go unaddressed, it can sometimes lead to negative consequences.

Regular self-reflection can help you identify feelings of discomfort and find ways to work through them. It can help you focus on what you can control and work on developing a growth mindset. Through optimistic thinking, you can increase your coping skills during times of hardship or stress and improve your physical health. Read this article for tips for practicing a positive mindset.

Self-Management

Educators teach self-management to students every day — they help students manage impulses and behavior, teach them to follow rules, and instill self-discipline and self-motivation.

Self-management is just as important for adults. During COVID and school closures, practicing self-care is even more important. Self-management may include setting and maintaining boundaries (i.e. not over-consuming news or social media), recognizing what you can/cannot control, finding ways to take care of your personal needs, and staying motivated. These self-management tips will help you navigate the many changes and unknowns of the upcoming school year.

Social Awareness

Empathy is a skill every teacher can practice, especially during difficult times. Talking through your experiences, fears, and frustrations with friends and co-workers is an important way to look after your physical and mental health. Sharing and listening to others can strengthen your sense of community, and it can relieve stress.

Showing empathy toward students is also important. Empathy shows students that you care about them, and it builds a positive classroom culture. Here are a few tips for practicing empathy with your students.

Relationship Skills

Now is a time to lean on co-workers, family, and friends. Strong relationships can help you get through challenges and hard times. You can establish a professional support network of peers, colleagues, coaches, and mentors, and communicate with this network regularly to share advice, trade ideas, and talk through challenges. Friends and family can also provide invaluable support by lending an ear on especially difficult days.

Responsible Decision-Making

A question on everyone’s mind is, “How can schools re-open safely?”

Being responsible for students is hard. It is especially hard during a pandemic. It goes without saying that educators are working tirelessly to ensure that schools are re-opened safely. This process is a great lesson on responsible decision-making.

As your school’s plans evolve and change, reflect on how decisions are being made — how is data influencing decisions, how are schools thinking through every aspect of our situation, and what can be learned from what is working and what needs improvement? This process will help you make responsible decisions in your own life, and you can teach this important skill to your students to prepare them for life’s challenges.

Usually, back-to-school is a time of excitement and anticipation, a time when students and educators can start fresh. With a little help from SEL, you can still get that fresh start and kick off the new school year on a positive note.

We truly believe in the importance of providing SEL for educators. Our tool, Educator Social-Emotional Reflection & Training (EdSERT), includes professional development, self-assessments, and strategies to support educators’ social-emotional competence and well-being. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your staff develop the critical social-emotional skills needed to have a successful school year.