Ryan Wertz and Kathy Shelton
World Language Consultants, Ohio Department of Education
We’d like to begin this article with another expression of our heartfelt appreciation for everyone who has continued to persevere during the most recent challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. As the omicron variant rages around us at the time of this writing, so many world language teachers have steeled their resolve and committed to getting past these most recent challenges. Such dedication cannot go unacknowledged. Know that we at the Ohio Department of Education see and fully support you!
As the disruptions and instability in learning continue, the social and emotional needs and well-being of students also need to be acknowledged and met. In this article, we hope to call your attention to the standards and resources that exist to support your work in this critical area and highlight the ways you can provide strong, content-specific social and emotional support to your students.
Human beings are social creatures. In society, successfully interacting with other people is essential to the effective functioning of a community, a workplace and even a family. People need to know how to successfully interact with each other, establish and maintain positive relationships, feel and show empathy, understand and manage their emotions, and set and achieve positive goals.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Research demonstrates that students who receive support for social and emotional learning while in school do better academically, socially and behaviorally. Social-emotional learning also has been shown to positively impact economic mobility and mental health outcomes. Developing these skills in learners is an important part of meeting the needs of the whole child.
First off, are you aware that Ohio’s State Board of Education adopted Social and Emotional Learning Standards back in June of 2019? Each district and school can decide the extent to which it will use these standards and how they will be used. A school’s or district’s choice should be informed by the values and needs of its local community. These standards are meant to be integrated into the regular daily activities in school, and they do not mean more classes for students or more work for teachers. Additionally, the Department will not develop state tests to measure students’ progress in learning these standards. Instead, schools and districts will have flexibility to choose whether and how to gauge the extent to which students are demonstrating mastery of the standards. These standards are the first step in the Ohio Department of Education’s plan to create resources for districts to voluntarily implement or modify to best meet the social-emotional needs of their students.
To learn more about Ohio’s K-12 Social and Emotional Learning Standards, visit the Department’s Social and Emotional Learning webpage, and click the center of the graphic organizer found there. Resources to support the implementation of social and emotional learning at different levels can be accessed by clicking the outer sections of the graphic organizer.
It is important to acknowledge that much of what we do as world language educators falls into the realm of social and emotional learning. For example, everything we do to create a warm and safe effective learning environment so that our language learners feel safe taking communicative and cross-cultural risks and learning from their errors without stigma falls squarely within the social and emotional realm. And it’s worth pointing out that many parts of our own Culture Standards read like a social-emotional handbook.
What does SEL look like in a world language classroom? The following strategies can serve as a starting point for integrating SEL into our learning environments. They may also represent strategies that teachers are already using, serving as validation for the link between intercultural communication, competence and SEL, as well as areas that can continue to be elaborated:
- Develop awareness of your personal beliefs, attitudes and perspectives and how they impact your behavior and your cultural identity.
- Develop curiosity to explore diverse perspectives and value intercultural experiences in both the target culture and your own culture.
- Develop sensitivity and empathy toward understanding the perspective of others in both the target culture and your own culture.
- Develop a decentered perspective and the ability to withhold judgment in both the target culture and your own culture.
- Develop confidence to use your language and culture skills to communicate effectively and interact with intercultural competence.
Intercultural Communication and Competence:
- Use language and behavior in interactive engagement to build relationships.
- Identify and make comparisons between the products and practices of both the target culture and your own culture to better understand everyone’s perspectives.
- Identify, compare and adhere to cultural norms and behaviors in both the target culture and your own culture.
- Read non-verbal cues and adjust your behavior as needed for the context or situation in both the target culture and your own culture.
- Manage your personal non-verbal reactions and adjust the display of emotional reactions when cultural norms or expectations differ from your own.
In closing, we encourage all world language educators to take some time if you haven’t already to become familiar with our state’s Social Emotional Learning Standards and support resources. Thank you for caring about your students and doing everything you can to support the full range of their needs.