SEL In Virtual Schools: Getting out of the comfort zone
Online schools present unique challenges and opportunities for students. SmartBrief Education invited Kimberly Hinton of the Insight School of Washington, a K12 Online School, to share how her school leverages social-emotional learning to bring out the best in her online student community while meeting key learning outcomes. This is the first of 2 op-eds on SEL in virtual schools.
Out of the comfort zone
By Kimberly Hinton
In my experience as a teacher in a virtual environment, online students have some distinct advantages over students in traditional “brick-and-mortar” schools. In addition to a myriad of services, virtual schools let teachers monitor their students’ class work and assignment completion in a closer, more comprehensive way. They can better help students keep up or catch up with their schoolwork. For students who have experienced bullying, a virtual school is an emotionally safer environment. The wall of privacy works to level the social environment and helps students enjoy more equity and safety.
However, this same wall of safety can easily result in students being isolated from their peers and contact with their communities.
At Insight School of Washington, we have implemented a special social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum to teach students the valuable skills they need in order to face life’s challenges and connect with people. The curriculum leads the students through the seven mindsets found to be the driving factors for many highly successful people. After each lesson, it assigns journal writing for students to reflect on implementing the concepts in their own life.
In addition to the journal assignments provided, this year I decided to give my students an assignment to raise money or donate time to a cause they felt passionate about. The assignment was to identify the cause they wanted to help, then contact the organization to set up a meeting with a lead person. At the meeting, they were to ask what the organization needed most and once they knew, to find a way to fill the stated need. I had felt inspired to do more service by the curriculum and I began to think that community service was an essential part of implementing and practicing the seven mindsets. Students can learn so much from service, and it would give them time away from their computers and…