|This book that I co-authored offers|
educators many SEL activities and
valuable SEL information.
A director of an afterschool program reached out to me today to see if I would be interested in speaking to the afterschool program teachers about social emotional learning and behavior management. It has been a while since I presented on a teaching/learning topic, but I couldn't resist this opportunity to speak about a topic I am passionate about and a topic that directly relates to the positive development of children.
I deeply believe that we have what it takes to help all children thrive today and into the future, and too often we don't take the time to seriously consider our efforts and potential in this regard. The way we mentor, engage and work with children directly affects how they feel about themselves and who they become.
As I thought of the diverse teaching team which includes many new teachers, I began to think about what is most important when it comes to working with children. How do we empower and enrich children's lives in meaningful ways.
Know and Appreciate Children
To be an effective educator at any level, you have to get to know and respect the children within your charge well. Beware of judging a child in any way, instead have an open mind to whom every child is, what they care about and whom they want to be. See yourself as a servant/mentor to the children--a person who will help them to achieve that which they desire, and a person who will lead them in positive life-enriching ways.
Model the behaviors you want children to use
First, we have to think about how we want children to behave--what do we expect from them, and then we have to assess our own behavior to ensure that we are modeling those behaviors. That's not always easy to do, and as an educator some of those desired behaviors came easily to me and others were more difficult. For the most part, we hope children will act in the following ways:
- Be courteous to one another by using respectful language, gestures and actions
- Solve conflict with words not force. Take the first step and try to solve a conflict peacefully on your own, and if that doesn't work, take the second step and seek the help of a teacher.
- If you see something dangerous or destructive, seek a teacher's help right away--don't try to solve it yourself.
- If you are troubled or worried, speak up right away--it is always best to get help rather than let worries and troubles hold you back.
- Become the person you are meant to be--discover your interests, pursue your passions, find a friend group that supports you and that you enjoy being with, develop your voice and look for models and mentors who help you to be that person you are meant to be.
- Know your needs - if you're upset, try to figure out why. Are you hungry, uncomfortable, tired, bothered, discouraged. . . . . . .Let a teacher and/or friend help you to figure out what's going on.
- The best way to learn is to engage in meaningful, enjoyable activities
- Choice empowers children and builds confidence--whenever possible give children a choice about the activities they choose and the groups they work with
- Infuse social-emotional learning into activities as a way to build a strong cultre and a caring community that develops self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
- Begin every activity with a group meeting. Briefly set the ground rules, take questions and then begin the activity.
- If a problem is dangerous or destructive, intervene right away by peacefully (with words rather than force) separating the children involved and following these steps:
- If someone is hurt, get help right away
- Clearly review what happened separately with each person involved
- Relay the incident to another staff member, preferably a supervisor - keep a record
- Decide on next steps to ensure safety for all involved
- Face problems by asking questions. For example if a child is acting in a way that is worrisome, hurtful, or problematic in any way, bring the child to a quiet space and ask these questions:
- Are you okay?
- Do you need a few minutes to calm down?
- I noticed that you _____________, and that's problematic because ___________. Why did you do that?
- How do you think we should handle this situation (Children almost always know the right answer to this question).
- You are mandated reporters so if you ever see signs of abuse, by law you must report the situation. This will not happen often, but it may happen so it is important to know this.
- Continually assess the success of activities and revise as needed. These questions will help you to assess programming success:
- Are the children happy?
- Are the children learning something new--what evidence of this do you have?
- Are the children working/learning/playing well together?
- Is everyone getting a turn?
- Does the activity foster social emotional learning? How do you know that?
- Are children able to relay what they've learned and participated in with family members, and perhaps continue the activity/learning at home?
- Do children have a say in how the activity is led, run, created?
- Are their leadership opportunities for children?
- Does the activity help children to know themselves better and discover their interests and passions?
- Do the activities help children to develop greater self confidence?
- Keep a simple log of the issues children present
- When an issue won't go away, seek the support of the program administrator
- Use the protocol outlined in the program for dealing with significant issues
- Put an action plan into place to positively support the child as they endure this situation.