Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Social and Emotional Needs

During the Term 2 Holidays we moved Hubs, as this transition was halfway during the year I wanted to take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally and emotionally safe for the learners. I believed this could have huge impact on the learners and I wanted this to be a positive experience so it became my inquiry: How does changing environments impact on learners with high social and emotional needs? What will minimise anxiety and increase wellbeing for these learners?
I wanted to build my knowledge so I researched different emotional and social needs and strategies to help them with this move. From this information I designed learning activities to start preparing the learners for the transition and selected target learners to be a part of my Special i-Group. This learning consisted of making connections to prior experiences to moving hubs (e.g. moving house), asking questions, brainstorming ideas for the new hubs - taking responsibility and getting student voice to build trust.  
Then it was time for the move. On the first day there was a real buzz of excitement, with smiles and loud voices. One noticing I had was the importance of routines, as the learners all came into the new hub and wanted to know where to put their book bags and brain food. They were looking for connections from their old hub. The learners had lots of new to adjust to as we had new learners, a new space and a new teacher. Which highlighted the importance of learners having tools and strategies,  such as the learning pit and learner qualities, to support them, when they are challenged. Therefore we made sure to create opportunities/activities to build respect, co-operation with the new learners. The next step was involving the learners in the new space. First we named the new spaces to encourage and motivate learners. Making connections to the space names to our Concept learning - relevant = Mt Wellington. Learners making the hub their own is critical in continuing the student agency in the hub. The learners were involved in creating art to go on the walls and making decisions around the furniture and its placement in the hub.
What impact did this have on my practice?
Raised awareness of the importance of building relationships with learners and whanau, not just at the start of the year. Helping the targeted learners minimise anxiety  prior to the move,  enabled the transition to be  less stressful. I was able to build more understanding of the challenges that many learners have in focussing on their learning,  when they have other social and emotional issues. The successful shifts in my practice have been not reacting to the behaviour, but being proactive  to find the cause. Changing assumptions, finding out the cause of the behaviour not assuming it is misbehaviour. I have been able to build deeper relationships with learners through this inquiry. The challenges in my practice have been trying new strategies and  learning to adjust and adapt these when they are  still unsuccessful.  This is an area that I still need to build my skills in.
My Next Steps are to continue to work with whanau and learners to ensure a smooth transition for next year. Continue to check the cause of each learner’s behaviour, rather than assume I know, and build more knowledge of  skills for teaching Social and Emotional Learning. Acknowledge a ‘‘one-size-fits-all’  doesn’t work, but each learner’s social and emotional needs are very personalised, and need to be catered for.

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