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Stronger Together: Social-Emotional Learning

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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There is a growing body of research proving that social and emotional learning (SEL) is fundamental to academic success. SEL must be woven into the work of every teacher in every classroom, and every after-school and summer learning program if we truly want to prepare all our students for college and careers. We know the COVID-19 pandemic has created different types of traumatic experiences and high levels of stress for many of our staff, students, and families. This experience emphasizes the importance of social–emotional well-being for all. LEAs will need to have the emotional recovery of students, staff, and families at the forefront of their planning and decision making.

When educators and students practice physical distancing at school or through distance learning, it does not mean they must lose social and school connections. During the COVID-19 response, it is critically important to place adult and student wellness first to establish a positive, safe, and supportive learning environment. Leading with SEL is essential because children need social and emotional support as they, like the adults around them, navigate the unprecedented challenges of alternative learning contexts, and because SEL helps students access academic content through building essential self-management skills, resilience, and connections.

As students return to campus in classrooms adapted to ensure physical distancing, consider how your local education agency might adapt instruction to account for the following:

  • Before school starts, how will the LEA engage with families and provide activities to help families feel comfortable on the school campus?
  • Before school starts, how will the LEA engage with staff to help them feel comfortable when returning to their classrooms and schools?
  • How will the LEA support staff to integrate SEL practices? What types of professional development will be offered and how often will it be available?
  • How will school staff provide non-academic-focused check-ins with students?
  • How might wearing masks alter our understandings of how individuals are feeling? Consider lessons on alternative ways to communicate feelings.
  • How can we positively communicate the need for physical distancing in the classroom? Children naturally hug, touch, etc. when playing. Consider finding ways to positively reinforce good practices.
  • How will we handle students’ and/or families’ varied understandings of physical distancing measures? Consider age-appropriate lessons on the science behind infection. Such lessons may also be leaned upon when addressing students who express concern when seeing other classmates exhibit signs of allergies or other noncontagious symptoms.
  • How will students who need additional support to physically distance or who may not be able to wear a mask due to a manifestation of their disability be supported at the school site? What, if any, exceptions can be made in such circumstances?
  • How can we support movement to ensure children are expending adequate energy? As student movement from classroom to classroom or recess activities are restricted, there may not be as many opportunities for physical activity during the school day. Consider building in transition activities that allow for movement.
  • How do we integrate SEL practices into instructional planning?

As the possibility of a virus resurgence exists, so does the possibility of alternating between virtual learning and in-person classroom activities. The CDE has compiled a list of resources that provide a range of SEL options for educators, administrators, other school leaders, and families/guardians as they support their students during distance learning. To view the list of resources, visit the CDE SEL and Distance Learning web page. Many of these resources can be used inside and outside the classroom.

The CDE is committed to helping educators learn more about SEL and how to infuse social and emotional supports into every child’s school experience. The CDE convened a group of experts from different sectors of the education system to advise the best ways to support SEL implementation. The team developed California’s Social and Emotional Learning Guiding Principles (full version and summary) and a social and emotional learning resource guide. To learn more about this work, visit the CDE SEL web page.

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Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Monday, December 6, 2021
Related Content
  • Coronavirus Response and School Reopening Guidance
    Information and resources regarding CDE's COVID-19 response efforts, including the guidance document for safely reopening schools.
  • Social and Emotional Learning
    Guidance and resources for supporting social and emotional learning.
  • Stronger Together
    A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.
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