Local Educator Shares Tips and Encouragement for Social Emotional Learning

Have you been reading about how our children are behind after all that pandemic quarantining? Find it discouraging? Wondering what you can do? Local mom and elementary certified educator, Niki Porter, shares some encouragement and tips with Columbia Mom.
Niki Porter is a wife, and a mom to two boys. She has a Master of Science in Educational Leadership and was Killian Elementary’s 2019 Teacher of the Year. In 2021 she became an eLearning Specialist/Instructional Designer.

Niki, it’s said that children have lost time in emotional and social growth during this pandemic. What does that mean? Can you give a few general examples, so we understand?

First, think about play. I know the importance of play. Being a good friend and communicator takes practice, and regular healthy conversations with your peers does just that. Building stamina to deal with being upset and bouncing back or using a variety of ways to respond is a part of character building.
During the pandemic, I remember feeling uncertain about my children going outside with others due to fears of the unknown and potential exposure. I remember what it was like as guidelines became a bit more relaxed, and watching my kids interact with children that also didn’t have as much exposure to groups of kids. 
Then when students entered the school building, there was an increase of bickering and not understanding how to resolve disagreements. Teenage students were mostly engaged in their phones, TikTok, and other forms of social media. We noticed teenagers were also not working as much. So, what were they doing when everything was shut down? More and more screen time.

How do you suggest moms work with/support their school to promote growth in these areas?

I have had interesting conversations with local therapists, educators, and friends about this. We all seem to come to the same conclusion of how important it is to be a part of extracurricular activities. Controlled environments that foster healthy conversations, and fun with their peers. Teaching your children how to play simple outdoor games such as four square, or HORSE on the basketball court, are options for neighborhood play. Paper dolls, board games and Lego sets are fun to do with organized playdates. I, myself, am thankful for our Richland County Recreation Commission and opportunities they provide.

Are there things that we moms can do specifically with our children to help with this social/emotional catch up? 

Role play is the best practice. When you see your children struggling to communicate or getting emotional, you can attempt written conversations or provide multiple responses as choices. In school, students learn from modeling and examples all the time.

I would try not to have tough expectations of what they should know. Our children have had a deficit in social interactions for quite a bit of time. I would encourage teens to start working part time again and begin to break up the amount of screen time in bits. Many parents feel that this could hurt their performance in school. I feel that it will actually help them manage their time and help them. Allowing time to assimilate is also very important. 

We often hear about students now having lower test scores on standardized testing. But what gives you hope for our children today?

You know, test scores are cold or quantitative. There are so many other factors that could make these results low. In school, students also learn test taking strategies. Being online it limited the variety of possible assessments. Not all students were in an environment with a teacher that regularly utilized tech tools. Not all students were surrounded with needed support to complete electronic work. We saw students that worked on packets, we saw asynchronous work, and for some, there was live and interactive learning.
For our little ones, the learning curve was steep. I know how happy parents were to send students back, and how excited the kids were to return. I feel that there will be an increase in participation after parents have spent personal time learning about their child’s work while out of the building. In due time we will begin to see the numbers climb again. Our community cares. 
Watching the crowds return to athletic sports and parents posting about their kiddos on social media gives me hope. Families have grown closer and it’s only the second year that most kids have been back in school. I know Richland Two had test scores that were above the state average in many areas. I attribute that to the advanced technology skills of our teachers and our district providing support with technology during the pandemic for teachers, students and parents.
 Thanks for sharing with us today, Niki!
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Melanie McGehee
Melanie McGehee never knew she wanted to be a mom. Even marriage caught her somewhat by surprise, in spite of the fact that she met husband Andy through a matchmaking service. She thanked eharmony by writing about that experience for an anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. Almost two years to the day after marrying him, she stared at two pink lines and wondered aloud, “Is this okay?” His response, “Kind of late to be asking that now.” It was a bit late – in life. But at the advanced maternal age of 35, she delivered by surprise at 35 weeks and an emergency C-section, a healthy baby boy. Ian, like Melanie, is an only child. She’s written much about him during her years with the blog, but he’s now a teenager. Please, don’t do the math. It’s true. Momming in middle age is the best!


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