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Living through the post-pandemic world requires indomitable will and perseverance. ‘Hope’ is probably one of the most used words in recent times and the underlying factor that creates hope, requires constantly navigating both physical and psychological emotions. Mental health has become one of the most widely discussed and debated topics. While the two-year-long pandemic affected the lives of all alike, children were impacted the most. With the closing of all schools and the rise in online learning, students are bound to stay at home. While a majority of households are a safe space, there are a few who used to resort to schools for a friendlier learning environment.
Attending schools involved daily peer interactions, sports activities, field trips, co-curricular participations, annual day functions, and other simple events that weren’t just fun but also helped students in the development of their emotional intelligence. These activities go way beyond academics and are undoubtedly more useful for any individual, let alone a student.
Social emotional learning (SEL) is a determinant of effective teaching. Social emotional learning is when a child or an adult learns to understand and manage their emotions, which involves showing empathy, making responsible decisions, good problem solving skills, setting clear achievable goals, making strong relationships, building self-control and self-awareness, etc.
The field has been evolving with the passage of time and with the pandemic. Studies have also shown that the environment of a student affects their academic, emotional, and social development.
As per a study conducted in 2017 (Dussenbury and Weisberg), SEL programs promote success in academics and increase positive behaviour, while also reducing substance abuse, misconduct, and emotional distress for elementary school students.
The awareness and acceptance of the need for SEL has already been created across countries. In 2020, the Delhi Government introduced the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ framework that integrates social and emotional activities into the academic structure.
Indian educationists have also agreed and acknowledged that SEL is a necessity in the educational system. The National Educational Policy of 2020 highlights the importance of SEL in building holistic development of children and has clearly stated that the education system must aim to ‘develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy’.
India is a diverse country and classrooms are a safe space for students from multi-cultural backgrounds to eat, learn, and play together. Classrooms should serve as a platform that celebrates each student’s uniqueness and teachers need to adopt strategies that celebrate their differences.
Students should be given an opportunity every now and then to showcase their linguistic and cultural assets.
Considering online learning is the new norm, here are a few ways of teaching strategies that build social emotional learning and cultural competence in students
Educators should dedicate an hour for students to discuss and put across their view points. Teachers need not essentially be a moderator, but must give a chance for every student to express their ideas, feelings, and understanding on various topics. This could be a weekly or a monthly period, where every student gets an opportunity to talk and, most importantly, listen to their peers.
SEL is not a one-time session that would immediately bring changes in a student. It must be seen as a year-long process. Educators need to analyse and help each student to make better decisions. They must incorporate activities that study a child’s immediate impulse to a conflicting situation.
Educators should give group assignments where students have to talk to their peers, collaborate, ideate, and come to a mutual understanding and conclusion. Through this, they also learn how their peers think and can share feedback on it during their online presentations.
While it is easy to conduct physical exercises and activities in a school, it becomes challenging to implement the same in an online set-up. However, mindfulness in the form of guided meditation can be incorporated. The idea is to help students connect with their inner fears and feelings and help them navigate their way through it.
Dedicating a few hours a week to social and emotional learning would go a long way. Schools and online education systems must create empathetic and responsible community members. Such programmes will also help students manage exam stress and will ultimately make them better empathetic humans.
Article by Mr Anand Maheshwari, Managing Director, Allen Digital Pvt. Ltd.
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