Virtual Social-Emotional Learning Helps Kids Talk About Trauma
Pictured: Carnell Family Resource Center Staff
The following story comes from Mary Fox, a case manager who teaches Social-Emotional Learning at Carnell Elementary. It is a true testament to the hard work and perseverance present in the Oxford Circle community throughout the past year and a half.
While I have experience teaching Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum in schools, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated me to teach SEL virtually for the first time. While I was initially unsure how well this would work, the whole experience reminded me just how resilient children can be.
One story I would like to share from the past year comes from my time with the 5th grade class at Carnell Elementary School. At the start of one particular session, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about how well my planned lesson would go over in a virtual setting. However, when one student shared, “Did you hear about the person that was shot near Carnell a few days ago?… He was my friend,” I instinctively knew I needed to set everything else aside and focus on supporting this young man and helping him process the death of his friend.
Throughout the lesson, he shared details of how they met, the things they used to do together, and the funny memories they shared. I asked him how he felt about his friend’s death and praised him for his willingness to be vulnerable and share his emotions. As other students in the class listened, they became eager to share their own stories about the loss of their loved ones. One student even shared photos with us and had his father join in so they could reminisce together. The 5th grade teacher also shared his own story of losing 2 grandparents during the pandemic.
The sheer amount of loss represented in this one classroom was more than a little staggering; however, it was very touching to see how the class rallied around each other and listened to one another share the losses they had experienced. As we continued to share stories, the class was able to recognize central SEL practices by asking questions and using their body language to show active listening.
At the end of our session, I shared my contact information with the class for anyone that wanted to continue the discussion at a later time. While this was a difficult experience, I believe it reiterated the need for SEL instruction in our schools — whether through in-person or virtual instruction. I am optimistic that moving forward, this 5th grade class is better prepared to handle not only their own emotions, but to also understand the emotions of others that they interact with throughout middle school, high school, and beyond.
To learn more about The Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association’s Trauma Therapy & Social-Emotional Learning Program and to see program highlights, click here for the September 2019–June 2021 Success Report.