Scary Times and Student Emotions
What effect is today’s national news in print, on TV, and online having on our students and children? Teachers and administrators tell us they hear rather "matter-of-fact" conversations in classrooms and school hallways about recent bombings, attacks, and demonstrations. For some, the events have taken place not far from school or home.
In the article How We Talk with our Kids, John B. King Jr., Secretary of Education at the US Department of Education, and James Cole Jr., Acting Deputy Secretary of Education, recently wrote about the job of educators and caring adults to “make school a place where all students can find productive outlets for their emotions.... The relationships they establish with their students are essential for healing our communities. Students who are still learning who they are and how they fit into the world pay a particularly steep price when witnessing and experiencing trauma. Their ability to learn and prepare themselves for a brighter future can be impeded, cognitively, socially and emotionally by the injustice and violence they experience and see in the world.”
They outline three key things young people need to hear from those adults who care about them:
Have Hope: Students need to hear from us about finding what gives them hope. Students may find hope by expressing themselves artistically or striving athletically, in reading literature, in their own writing, connecting with friends, or organizing a peaceful protest. We should encourage them to find reasons to be hopeful as well as opportunities to share their feelings. But we should also help them realize that they have it in their power to make changes in their own lives, the lives of their families, and in their communities.
We’ve Got Your Back. We want all young people to know that wherever they are, whatever they are going through, there is someone advocating for them. Students need to know someone is on their side and looking out for them.
You Are Loved. Many of us are coping with feelings of anger, frustration, and grief. We want all young people to understand the power of love.
Consider these SEL connections and conversation starters:
Relationship Skills involve communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively. What can you do everyday to work on those skills? In your opinion, which of these skills is the most important for creating a peaceful world? Why?
Self-Awareness involves understanding one's own emotions. Are constant news reports and images creating fear or distrust? How? Should we turn off and tune out for a while? Why or why not?
Self-Management requires skills and attitudes that help regulate one's own emotions and behaviors. What behaviors might you work on to make everyday life peaceful within your family and classroom?
Social Awareness involves the ability to understand, empathize, and feel compassion for those with different backgrounds or cultures. How can we reach out to others to foster acceptance?