Social Emotional Learning Rooms
Educators who work with the social and emotional learning of students have more significance and impact today than ever before, but has the look of the guidance counselor’s room changed? Is there more than chairs, a desk, a computer, and some sort of writing board? Most of us know that student progress, individual education plans, and student behavior plans have become apps, making it easier for educators, guidance and counseling professionals to collect, create, share, and archive student data. What about those face-to-face gatherings with kids, though? Are they as 21st century as they should be, or are they still models of last century’s best practices?
Everyone knows the value of having all students meet and talk with counseling professionals regularly, and at any age. When the need is due to a more specific reason, though, such as divorce, behavior, or even being new at school, the meetings and conversations need to be held more frequently. Considering some of the more recent tragedies, like Newtown’s Sandy Hook, it’s imperative that a new dimension be added to what students, educators, administrators, parents, and school counselors need to tackle complicated social and emotional issues. Conversations with students on serious subjects can sometimes move slowly, or not at all, and may require more than a short chat from a seat across from the traditional educator’s or counselor’s desk.
It may be time to create a Social Emotional Learning Room (SMLR) in every school. Now, what might that look like? While that has budgetary implications, looking at this learning space as a definite need and not a wish-to-have is appropriate. These #guidance rooms should have 10 or so tablets for student groups; there most likely won’t be more students than that at one meeting. Add an interactive touch table that seats at least 6 students. The table, set up with Internet, apps, and appropriate software can change a meeting table into an active and natural place for chat and discussion. That’s not to say that holding a teddy bear won’t work on certain occasions and instances, too. There should also be an interactive board or flat panel on the guidance counselor’s wall, or better yet, on a portable stand, so it can be moved from the #SMLR to other rooms in a school. There is no reason this one most important room can’t be equipped appropriately in every school today. It doesn’t take much to see Social Emotional Learning Rooms as benefits on paper, but return on investment working with students will show where it really counts—in the students, in the classrooms, in the halls, and in the culture of a building and district. That cost is more than reasonable.