Strengthening Social-Emotional Learning in the Virtual Space

By Adenia Linker, Together for Students Project Manager, Communities In Schools of Chicago

In its 2020–21 remote learning plan, Chicago Public Schools identified that supporting students’ social and emotional wellbeing — and that of their families — was a key priority as we embark upon this school year. “During this time of uncertainty and disruption, our students may feel a sense of loss, grief, anxiety, and depression,” the plan states, “while students who are exposed to chronic stress and trauma are especially vulnerable.”

But how can educators respond to this key priority and foster a sense of belonging for students, in addition to teaching academic curricula? That’s where Together for Students comes into play. Together for Students is a three-year initiative that focuses specifically on fostering young people’s social and emotional learning (SEL).

In Chicago, Together for Students brings together three organizations — Communities In Schools (CIS) of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and Thrive Chicago — and as the representative for CIS of Chicago, I work with my counterparts to help integrate social and emotional learning strategies, both inside and outside the classroom.

Supporting educators in social and emotional learning was important for student success before the pandemic, but amid remote learning and the stress that has bubbled up this school year, it’s now more crucial than ever. Through virtual trainings, e-newsletters, resource lists, panels, and more, my counterparts at the Together for Students initiative have brainstormed creative ways to keep students connected. And I’m proud to say that my colleagues at CIS of Chicago have employed many of these strategies throughout the remote learning period.

Here are some ideas we’ve gleaned from experience and discussion to help guide educators in SEL support this school year.

Student Support

Staff Support

Parent and Family Support

Special thanks to the following educators in the Chicago Public Schools Competency-Based Education network, who shared some of the ideas listed above during a virtual panel discussion:

*Nilufar Rezai
Professional School Counselor, Daniel Webster Elementary School

**Shannae Jackson
Principal, Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School

***Julia Ciciora
Teacher, Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School

Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

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