I know you’ve heard many times about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Over the last year, I have implemented Social and Emotional Learning lessons with fidelity. One of my absolute favorite ways that I have implemented SEL into my classroom has been to incorporate open conversation. 

This post is sponsored by WeAreTeachers & The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are my own.

Social Emotional Learning

Open Conversation

What is open conversation? I ended up creating this idea in my classroom so that students knew when we were having conversations that it was a safe and open space. These conversations have ranged anywhere from a conversation that the student had with their parents to the fear of the future. As I created this open conversation time, I wanted to make sure that the conversations were authentic. The students also had to feel comfortable that the conversations that were going to happen in the classroom, would stay in the classroom. We built up to this level and it didn’t start out immediately discussing massive fears. It took time and that was expected. 

The Rules

  1. Make sure the students know that whatever happened in the classroom will only be discussed within the classroom and with their parents.
  2. Parents were well aware of what was happening when I created this open conversation. I wanted the parents to know that if we were discussing something the students may come home with questions or conversations. The parents loved that the students had a place to discuss all of their fears besides just in their house. If something was alarming, I opened the conversation to the parents as well so that the parents were aware of the situation and would have knowledge as well. 

Build Their Trust

3. Build their trust. Building trust is a huge part of the relationship. We know that when a student comes into your classroom for the first time, they may not be ready to discuss all of their life goals or their fears. Over time it will come. When you build trust, you often need to explain information about yourself to the students.

One time, I explained how I did not pass the state test when I was in high school. (True story.) The students immediately opened up with questions, and we had open conversation time to discuss what could happen in their future if they do not pass the state tests. They wanted to know what would happen and the stakes that came with it. Sometimes kids have fears that don’t make any sense to you. If you are able to discuss some of your fears (nothing harsh), you will show that you are on the same level as them. Oftentimes students think that teachers don’t have fears or concerns. If you explain some of your fears, the students will connect with you. 

Don’t Judge

4. It’s our secret and we don’t judge. Students often worry that they will be judged or that the conversation will leave our 4 walls. We need to be honest that the conversations we are having must stay within these 4 walls. These 4 walls are our protection. If a student were to discuss the conversation with other students, we would lose that trust. Our trusting walls would crumble around us and we would have to start all over. It is incredibly important that the students recognize that there is no reason to discuss our conversations with other students.

Open Dialogue

5. My favorite part of open conversation is the dialogue. Open the dialogue within your classroom. After about 2-3 weeks with the students, you will recognize that students are discussing their questions, fears, concerns. They are being self-aware within themselves. 

Let’s Imagine…

Imagine if every classroom were to have this open conversation with each other. Our schools are not just here for academics anymore. We are here to support those students and we need to support them through SEL skills. We need to provide that safe-haven for students. Our kids need us and this is the time to act. Social-Emotional competence is a greater predictor than academic grades. Students who score high on social skills are four times more likely to complete college. 

The Allstate Foundation Supporting Social and Emotional Learning

The Allstate Foundation is committed to empowering youth by providing young people – and those that guide and teach them – with SEL to help build skills like empathy, teamwork, and resilience that lead to success in school, work, and life.

How to help

Additionally, there are so many ways that you can support your students or child. Their free ‘Happy, Successful Teens’ SEL Parent Guide offers tips and guidance for building these important skills at home. In times of uncertainty, like we are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, these skills are more important than ever before!

This post was written as part of The Allstate Foundation and We Are Teachers SEL Parent Guide campaign and sponsored by The Allstate Foundation. All opinions are mine. The Allstate Foundation empowers young people—and those that guide and teach them—with social and emotional skills to build character and transform lives. Learn more at www.allstatefoundation.org

Need some ideas for Morning Meeting? Check out this blog post!

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