Teachers Assist with Social-Emotional Support
Learning to support our own emotional and social needs during the pandemic has been hard enough. Imagine adding the stress of teaching a classroom of students to do the same, in real-time, often remotely when uncertainty abounds. Most of us cannot and/or would rather not!
Teachers didn’t have a choice. Nearly all the Teacher Assist applications acknowledged the emotional challenges posed by the pandemic. Some took it a step further and sought an assist that would help their students address the mental strain many of us have been feeling.
“It’s a huge challenge to manage stress and engagement while learning. My school’s students have been taught on Zoom since last March,” said Monyca Currier. “Many of our families have been affected traumatically by Covid-19 – social isolation, death, sickness, loss of jobs and income – the list goes on and on. The repercussions won’t go away overnight. Students need to learn coping skills not only for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but also coping skills for everyday life.”
Teacher Assist grants will be funding mindful breathing and movement, social and emotional support tools and resources, and even a therapy dog! Read how these winning projects will help bolster students’ mental well-being long after the pandemic ends. And it’s not just the kids – these projects will impact their entire school communities!
Monyca has been exposing her third graders to mindfulness concepts all year. Her grant will allow her to complete 200 hours of Breathe for Change training. She’ll earn certification to allow her to teach yoga and the program’s other strategies and techniques not only to her students, but to other teachers and adults – expanding the social-emotional wellness and learning experiences beyond just her classroom.
“While I am in the early stages of my coursework, I've been teaching mindfulness and breathing techniques all year,” Monyca said. “My students have learned that when they feel nervous or anxious about something, they should pause and take a few deep breaths. It’s helped them develop a stronger growth mindset and the ability to self-regulate some of their emotions and behaviors.”
Ryan is using his grant funds for a second Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) therapy dog. It will join @hobbsthehuskie to address the social-emotional needs of students (and staff).
Hobbs, a golden retriever, has made a huge positive impact since coming to the school from Paws with a Cause.
“The pandemic has been very difficult for students (and staff.) Hobbs has provided social-emotional support, and truly does make people feel better,” Ryan said. “I start every day by saying to Hobbs, ‘Let's go make some smiles!’ He does that very thing all day.”
Research shows in addition to helping decrease anxiety and improve physical well-being, SEL dogs help ease social isolation and help students learn social skills and gain confidence.
Incidentally, Paws With a Cause provides dogs for the State Farm Arson Dog Program.
As the school’s guidance counselor, Terry Tucker has noticed the negative impact the pandemic has had on his students. He realizes they need more social-emotional learning (SEL) support, especially the African-American and at-risk students.
Even before the pandemic, emotional and social learning has been his focus and students in his at-risk school have benefited immensely.
“Negative experiences of our at-risk students create trauma needs. They often act out to get any kind of attention,” Terry said. “When we focus on supporting their emotional and social wellness, we see test grades go up. When you see those positive results, it’s addictive.”
He is using his Teacher Assist grant funds to expand that impact through the purchase of the SEL curriculum resource, School Connect. It will help students tackle real world problems through learning inter/intrapersonal skills, mindfulness and emotional management.
In addition to classroom activities, students can access the resource anytime virtually. The program’s tools allow them to take positive ownership in the areas of character, self-awareness, anger management, showing empathy, responsible decision making, social awareness and relationship skills.
Terry is excited to be able to offer the platform in the coming school year. It will help students understand and define their feelings. That helps them put a name to what they are feeling. With tools to practice at-home coping scenarios, students become less stressed and more self-regulated.
For teachers, lesson plans address bullying, self-worth, self-esteem and respect. The focus is on life skill development, problem solving and goal-setting that will set up students to deal with whatever life throws at them.
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