- While 78% of teachers feel that it is part of their job to “help students develop strong social and emotional skills” and nearly 92% feel that the teaching of social-emotional skills “will improve student safety,” only 40% feel they “have adequate strategies to use when students do not have strong social and emotional skills,” according to an Education Week survey. And roughly 62% feel at least somewhat prepared to respond to students' mental-health issues.
- Roughly half of children in the country have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, according to Child Trends, and many teachers do not feel they have had enough preparation to deal with these issues. Only 29% had received mental health training, according to the Education Week survey, 43% found “finding ways to help students who appear to be struggling with problems outside of school” difficult, and 23% said their most challenging task was “finding ways to help students who appear to be experiencing emotional or psychological distress."
- While many teachers try to help distressed students cope in the classroom and pull them aside for one-on-one conversations, almost half feel that they do not have enough support from mental health professionals at school or from parents. The two biggest challenges to supporting the social and emotional development of children is lack of time because of the need to focus on academic content and lack of support from families of students, the survey showed.
As research into incidences of childhood trauma and the benefits of trauma-informed education grows, addressing the social and emotional needs and skills of students is becoming more of a priority for school leaders. Teachers are at the front line when it comes to dealing with students and are often the first to spot social and emotional issues that arise, particularly when these issues impact the classroom.
Training can come from multiple approaches, including the Turnaround for Children program mentioned in the article. Whatever approach school leaders take, they must realize that many teachers themselves need to acquire social-emotional learning skills before they can prepare to pass these skills on to students. Experts recommend that training in social-emotional skills should also be available to other staff members and administrators who work with students in intense situations such as school resource officers and staff members tasked with handling discipline issues.
Teachers, especially those who are new to the profession, may grow frustrated if they don't have other professionals to turn to if students' social-emotional and mental health needs are beyond what they feel prepared to address. States and districts have tried to respond by increasing the number of counselors and other professionals. Schools can also make sure resources for parents are available so they can reinforce social-emotional skills at home and know who to contact if they are concerned about an issue impacting learning in the classroom.