The pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and inequities, with families from historically underserved communities experiencing unemployment, food insecurity, physical, and mental health problems at disproportionate rates. Exposure to these multiple hardships can have wide-ranging impacts for children, including the potential for adverse effects on emotion regulation, learning, behavior, and health.
For student learning to continue in the context of the current environment, compassion and emotional awareness are essential, as are trusting relationships and a belief in children’s extensive capabilities. Students are set up for success when learning is a top priority and social and emotional needs are supported - both at home and at school. As noted by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “when students have supportive relationships and opportunities to develop and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills across many different contexts, academic learning accelerates.”
As schools deepen investment in social and emotional support, it is important to acknowledge the critical role that families have always played in nurturing their children across the social, emotional, and academic domains. Furthermore, families experiencing economic hardships, barriers to healthcare access and use, and oppression and discrimination as a result of their skin color stepped up in myriad ways to support their children’s learning during the pandemic. As such, it is critically important that schools and teachers recognize families for their implicit partnership, while also sharing accessible and inclusive information with families suffering in the pandemic that support building social, emotional and academic skills together. In addition to empowering families and children, a regular exchange of learning-focused information between parents and teachers helps strengthen connections among the key adults in a child's life in ways that further support children during these difficult times.
I’m proud that a social and emotional lens is (and has always been) foundational to our work at Family Engagement Lab, especially as we work to advance equitable educational outcomes for students. When teachers and families use FASTalk they are helping students build the social and emotional skills that underlie their learning success. FASTalk weekly messages help families support their children’s development of key academic, social and emotional skills through text messages with easy, actionable strategies. In addition to these skill-building tips and activities, FASTalk messages are designed to prompt moments of meaningful connection between parents and their children, helping to build strong relationships and reinforce responsive parenting practices. Feedback from families has communicated the value of FASTalk on multiple levels. For example, parents have noted that FASTalk messages taught them “a lot about myself and my child” in addition to “different ways to support my child’s emotional and educational needs.” Additionally, FASTalk supports relationship building and partnership between families and teachers by facilitating a regular exchange of learning-focused information via two-way messaging, with automatic translation.
Understanding your school’s or district’s approach to supporting students’ social,
emotional, and academic needs will be critical this school year and beyond. How are you learning more about your school communities’ unique needs related to SEL? What initiatives (e.g., see CASEL’s 2021 SEL Program Guide) do you have in place to support those needs and build critical skills ?
About the Author