A new social and emotional learning course from Yale University is available to all Connecticut educators and adults who work with children to make sure that children remain emotionally healthy this year.
Children may have largely been spared from the illness, but their mental health has suffered, according to research.
The course, “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress: Research-Based Strategies,” is a 10-hour online session and will be offered on a rolling basis through the end of 2020. Experts at Yale will help participants create an action plan to enhance personal and professional growth.
Gov. Ned Lamont said that early on in the pandemic people he heard from were concerned about survival, but as time went on the needs became socially and emotionally related.
“Our May and June 211 hotline — we had more and more kids calling in,” Lamont said. “Kids just looking for someone to talk to. Kids who have been isolated for a really long time. It just reminded me again how important that it is that we reach out to the whole kid and make sure we are there for them.”
Lamont and educational leaders across the state met July 14 on Zoom to discuss the course and its benefits in the era of COVID-19 particularly. The course will help teachers help themselves so that they can help the kids they teach. The Dalio Foundation, a long time funder of educational initiatives, along with the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut, the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents contributed funds and ideas to bring the course to life.
“This is really a dream come true to be able to help the teachers and to all come together and bring something that has been proven and it works,” said Barbara Dalio, of the Dalio Foundation.
Spearheading the execution of the course at Yale is Dr. Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and professor at the Child Study Center.
Brackett said his research shows that both educators and students are run down from stress and depression caused by the pandemic.
“The experiences we’ve had and the transitions we’ve been asked to make have really impacted everything — how we instruct, how we interact with our students and how our students interact with us,” said Erin Daley, a third grade teacher in Connecticut. “I think what we need to focus on is rebuilding our strategy tool boxes. Meeting the social and emotional needs of our students is paramount to what we do.”
In a study out of China where the pandemic originated, a study of 2,330 school-aged children found that after only a month of lockdown 22.6% reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% experienced anxiety.
“We have to do something about it,” Brackett said. “We have to know that a stressed out teacher is a stressed out classroom and it is harmful to our health and well-being. Without effective strategies our brains go into weird places. We go into survival mode, not teaching and learning mode.”
Brackett’s 2019 book “Permission to Feel” is part of the inspiration for this course.
“Our kids’ lives are so scripted,” said Tom Nicholas, vice president of the Connecticut Education Association. “They have no time that is basically unscheduled. Marc’s title is brilliant — ‘Permission to Feel.’ We so much of the time do not give kids permission to feel.”
Prior to the stress-inducing pandemic, Nicholas noted that even when a child has to use the bathroom, they have to ask for permission. He said that in subtle ways, by scheduling a child’s days for them, he fears that kids do not have permission to tune into their emotions and address how they are feeling. Brackett said this course will set aside time to instruct teachers on how to work social and emotional lessons into the classroom.
“You can teach people effective responses to their stress,” Brackett said. “We can help people deactivate, we can help people reframe their experiences and build resistance.”