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  • 1.  Social and Emotional Learning

    Posted 07-05-2022 03:50 PM
    One of the topics I've been hearing about a lot lately is SEL (social and emotional learning).

    Would anyone mind sharing your teaching context and some of the approaches you use to  build language learners' awareness of --and reflection on-- mood, self- and social-awareness, relationship building, and  decision making? How helpful do you find the development of SEL in your teaching context?

    Thanks and hope you're having a great weekend! :)

    Christine Nicodemus

    Department Chair- Humanities, Social Sciences, & Fine Arts, Wayne Community College (USA)

  • 2.  RE: Social and Emotional Learning

    Posted 07-05-2022 06:16 PM
    Hi Christine,

    Preface - I imagine this post will draw siginficant ire and negative feedback but I think it's important to make this comment. It is also predicated on my experience in the US and the US only, not in any other country or educational system.

    Socio-Emotional Learning and the ideas you mentioned (mood, self- and social-awareness, relationship building, and  decision making) are very culturally driven.  What is appropriate for "relationship building" or "social awareness"etc.  in one culture may be totally different, and offensive, in another culture. Language Learners come from every possible culture and it is imperative that educators not try to fit the Socio-Emotional Learning constructs that work in one culture or society onto others.

    Socio-Emotional Learning is a big topic now in predominantly white schools where there has been signficant dissolution of the idea of "family" and the strength and support a person gets from their family. Or cultural supports. Instead, particularly in white, middle- and upper-middle class schools parents and society have abdicated educating students and supporting students in these domains to the schools.  In my experience, Hispanic, African-American or Asian (and others not listed) cultures address these issues more in the family and are not comfortable with schools or "professionals" imposing their values. Most ELLs come from these cultures so care is needed in considering whether this is an area you want to discuss with your students.

    Perhaps you could elaborate more on how/why you want to discuss these issues with  your students.


    Allison Widmann, MSW, MPP, Certified TESOL
    ESL Teacher
    Language and Literacy, LLC
    United States

  • 3.  RE: Social and Emotional Learning

    Posted 08-05-2022 11:39 AM
    Hey Christine.

    I tried to do a panel on this for TESOL through RCIS. It was in person, so not recorded. And most of my presenters ended up not being able to make it, so they were recorded too. So it wasn't what I had hoped. There are some interesting things going on, though. I'm hoping to arrange a discussion soon with my panelists for RCIS so that we can actually have a conversation, rather than the kind of "talking at" one gets at a panel.

    One of my panelists was a researcher at Yale who started out doing research on how SEL is working for special education students, and then she realized she needed to include the ESL population as well, because it was working equally poorly for them. She found that even the color grids so popular for kids to identify their emotions is incredibly westernized and not necessarily helpful, among other issues. Another is a friend and former colleague in Vermont who did a research project with circles at homes with stakeholders. Really interesting stuff. And a third is a new friend who started teaching adults and realized she couldn't teach them until they dealt with their emotional issues first, and now she has a nonprofit focusing on teachers taking care of themselves.

    What sparked this is my own issues, of course. Currently, my school has bought into a program called 7 Mindsets. Their salesforce, like for all the other canned programs, claims to have differentiation for English learners, but it turns out that in most cases, it's a hit-or-miss Spanish translation that does little to help bridge cultural or linguistic barriers that keep kids from building relationships across their classrooms. How do you have an in-depth conversation when half the kids are reading it and discussing it in a different language? The idea is to build community. And this dual language approach that doesn't ever bring the ideas to one common table serves to divide rather than unite.

    In the past, I was at a high school that was focusing on restorative circles, but the trainers never really talked about how to bring that to beginners except through linguistic/cultural liaisons and in-the-moment interpretation. That's also a bit tricky. Students might be reticent to talk to someone whose job it is to communicate with their parents through the school. And it slows things down, which in turn dampens conversations. And metaphorical thinking, which is often taken for granted even in the icebreakers (What color is your mood today? What weather describes what you are feeling?), is difficult for students to grasp; even if they understand the words, that's a pretty big leap of understanding with multiple cultural nuances.

    The closest I've come to being able to address these issues and bridge this gap has been in a newcomer class where I had an artist in residence once a week who did dance and movement--to build community and teach difficult language concepts in a non-traditional way--and a meditation guru who visited every two weeks who brought breathing exercises into our lives and talked about how to use meditation to bring focus and calm into the lives of students who most definitely came to us with various levels of trauma.

    I have a friend and colleague who does classroom yoga with her beginners at elementary school, and she says it has made a world of difference in focus and attitudes.

    Happy to provide any additional information if any of this sounds helpful. Message me!


    Beth Evans
    ESOL Teacher
    Champaign CUSD #4
    United States
    Past Chair, RCIS