Thinking about Social and Emotional Learning

I’ve been thinking about going back to school, as I’m sure every teacher and parent and student has been, and the ways that being out of school for several months and then spending the summer being pretty limited as to what you can do will impact our children during the coming year.

We still don’t know what will happen in my district and it’s cutting it a bit close from my perspective because the schools have spent the summer trying to figure out three versions of opening. One will be fully in school, one will be some form of hybrid, and one will be fully remote. I can’t imagine how difficult it has been to think about things like writing someone a pass. Do you have any idea where passes go? On a good day they are filthy. During COVID they are just frightening to consider. They’ve had to consider ventilation, spacing, materials children can no longer share, and the textbooks and dictionaries we don’t have enough of for every child to have their own. They’ve also had to change the setup of the nurse’s office, the front office, the lunchroom, specials…the list is endless. Meanwhile the teachers are inventing things and sharing ideas for dispensing hand sanitizer without it being touched, touchless tissue boxes, etc. to make the room as safe as possible and that’s before we start trying to figure out what curriculum to adapt and how to adapt it.

That’s when the real fun begins. How do you get accommodations for little Timmy who is reading below grade level, maintain grade level for medium Timmy who is on grade level, and challenge big Timmy who needs to be pushed because he was reading above grade level two years ago and has already read every book in the house and you can’t give him free range to read any book he wants because now you only have digital books and he’s read all of those last year. Not to mention the kids who are coming back with issues from whatever happened while they were out. Some children have had family members die, some have seen people get very sick, some have watched their parents lose their jobs or seen them go to work during a pandemic, and some have watched abuse in their homes increase and the damage that goes beyond the physical, and all of it has scared them or, at least on some level, made them feel less secure about the world as they experience it.

What can you do? Not much. Sadly, the world we currently live in has very few answers and the people who need help don’t always get it. However, if you do have children or know children you do know there is still one thing almost every one of them loves to do is zone out in front of a movie. Which is why I’m sharing the following link. It says it is a list of movies supporting Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom but if there is one thing we all figured out this year it is that a classroom can be anywhere. So feel free to find a movie on the list that appeals to your middle schooler, pop some popcorn and watch together. Afterward talk about what happened in the movie. How did the characters deal with challenges? What did the main character do when they were sad or mad? What happened that taught a lesson? What was the lesson? Or just talk abut what they thought. Kids are smarter than they are given credit for. Sometimes we bludgeon them with words because they are quiet and we assume they aren’t listening. Instead of talking ask a question and then be quiet and wait them out. Eventually they will talk and, if you’re lucky, you can have a conversation about what they are scared about or need support with, without trying to convince them to talk like you’re a mafia enforcer and they refuse to tell you what you want to know.

Here’s the list, enjoy!

Middle school movies that support SEL in the classroom

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