If a challenge comes at you during the day, how do you cope? Do you throw a tantrum become overly frustrated and give up? Or do you acknowledge your feelings, take a moment to reassess the situation and move forward from there? Obviously the latter response is better for self-growth and improvement and it’s an example of one outcome from Social and Emotional Learning.
Students, of education assistant course like the one offered by Ashton College, will learn about social and emotional learning, which is also sometimes referred to as SEL, or socio-emotional learning, in their education programs.
Very simply put, SEL is learning that allows individuals to better manage their emotions, establish decisions and goals, work towards those desired outcomes, and maintain positive relationships in ways that include empathy. This approach with students comes from understanding the SEL concepts taught in education assistant courses such as: emotions, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
Benefits of Social and Emotional Learning
Anyone can benefit from SEL, yet for students with disabilities, SEL can be life-changing. The benefits aren’t just felt by students either, individuals who take an education assistant course will quickly learn that the student’s family and social circle also benefits from this ongoing form of education. Facts to support SEL can be found from various studies online and in the materials provided in teaching our education assistant courses, but some findings report that students involved in SEL learning have: less emotional distress, fewer disciplinary incidents, increases in school attendance and improved test scores and grades.
Individuals who take an education assistant course will be among the first to point out that these factors would be beneficial to almost all students with and without disabilities. This type of learning can make both the education journey and the outcomes following education even more successful. The SEL approach works, because it comes down to basic principles of human nature – kindness, respect and understanding of self and others. Everyone can benefit from learning that focuses on improving these traits.
Approaches taught in teaching assistant courses
SEL is taught in a number of different ways and will vary based on the school district, school, teacher and student. Three approaches teaching assistant courses should touch on are the Responsive Classroom approach, the Open Circle approach and RULER (recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating). The common element of all of these methods is that they are evidence-based – meaning there has been research conducted to prove that the approaches are effective across large groups of individuals.
SEL methods have the best outcome when they are school-wide, but certainly, classroom-wide applications will also have clearly visible benefits. The joy in using SEL approaches with students who have disabilities comes from seeing their excitement and ability to move forward in areas they may have struggled with previously.
Bringing SEL activities to the classroom
There are a number of things to learn to fully appreciate all that SEL has to offer, but with the origins in valuing self and others, an education assistant will easily come up with great ideas to apply with students. Each student’s disability (or disabilities) should be considered when creating activities along with the various student personalities and learning styles.
Some examples of activities include having students read a book together. Talking about placement of the book so that both students can hold it, reading aloud that requires speaking clearly and sharing of information are key elements in this exercise.
Another example would be to have students watch a video with children of their own age. Break students into groups to discuss how the person in the video felt during certain moments. Allow students to respond with their own feeling of how they would have felt in the same situation.
It’s essential for education assistants to appreciate the expected social and emotional skills at various levels and various ages of students with disabilities. Once these have been identified, the fun of creating engaging and growth-inspiring activities based in SEL will begin.