Answering the Call: Setting Goals to Meet Social and Emotional Needs of Students

Here are three intentions to use as you set your school year goals to allow you to meet the social and emotional needs of students.

By Amber Chandler

This year, I’m setting a few goals based on the reading I’ve been doing this summer as they relate to behavior management; these are goals that will be my “New Year’s Intentions.”

These goals are about meeting social and emotional needs of students in practical ways, a theme you’ll see each month because intentional, deliberate attention to these needs is the first step of transformational education.

Intention #1: “The 10 x 2 Rule”

We all have students who try our patience. What if, before we’ve reached our highest frustration point, we intentionally alter our behavior in order to impact the child? We aren’t assuming that we are doing something wrong; rather, we are consciously deciding to make a small move towards students who might make us want to pull back.

This idea, called the 10 x 2 rule is simple: spend 2 minutes a day engaging with a student who is troublesome to you for 10 days, and you’ll see results. You can read more about it here, but it originated with an article from ASCD based on the research of Raymond Wlodkowski. This intention is based on the CASEL competency of “Relationship Skills.” By modeling for our students how to be a good conversationalist and listener, we are helping them with those soft skills, and creating better relationships which will improve behaviors.

Intention #2: “Positive Body Language”

I have the most inviting classroom you can imagine (check it out on my website), and I just got a grant from the NoVo Foundation to create Flexible Seating, so the room this year is going to be awesome! However, many people⏤adults and kiddos alike⏤have told me that I am intimidating when they first meet me. I’ve never gotten a straight answer about what exactly I do that seems that way, but body language speaks volumes without saying a word, so I’m going to start there.

This article on “Positive Body Language” is really interesting, and one tip immediately jumped out at me, “avoid barriers.” Guess where I teach from to start the class? Behind a podium! This is for convenience, but I also am modeling the appropriate postures and attitudes as a public speaker. However, based on this article, I’m going to move away from the podium for a bigger percentage of time.

I’m considering getting rid of my desk altogether as I implement Flexible Seating, so this is a great first step. This intervention is a situation where I am practicing “Self-Awareness” and recognizing my impact on others. I’ll be sure to explain this to students as I overtly tell them what I’m doing when I circulate the room.

Intention #3: Distinguish between “Rules” and “Protocols”

I started this transition last year when I was given a class set of Chromebooks to use for my classroom. I’d never had that much technology at my fingertips, and I wanted to take advantage of it; however, I know students can be overwhelmed with too much freedom.

I was looking for a way to say, “These are the rules” without saying “These are the rules.” Instead, when we talked about management of classroom resources and the processes we needed to follow, I began using the word “protocols,” explaining that it means “official procedure.”

Once students saw their behaviors as a part of a greater system, they were more willing to comply with things like signing out their computer, keeping the volume reasonable, etc. Instead of “Sam, turn your headphones down,” I’d say, “Remember your protocols for volume, ladies and gentlemen. No higher than a 4. Thanks.” It wasn’t personal, but procedural.

Last year it took awhile for all of the protocols to fall into place, and now with flexible seating coming into play, I’m going to need more protocols in place pretty quickly. I’ve done my research, and I think the best methods emphasize the CASEL competency of “social awareness.”

Some of the best advice out there encourages teachers to create communities where students feel interdependence with their classmates and teacher, such as this article. For me, the most important aspect of having the protocols is to enforce their use at all times and not to slack off when everyone gets comfortable in October, as I have tended to do in the past. It is hard to regain order once it is lost.

The plan is set then, and these are my “New Year’s Intentions” based on the social and emotional needs of my students . I’m going to seek out my top disrupters for a little 2 minute chat each day, use welcoming body language and move away from barriers, and lay out the protocols from day one. These aren’t shockingly innovative ideas, but they are intentional, which makes all the difference. What do you have in mind for your “New Year’s Intentions?” Share in the comments!

Amber Chandler is a National Board Certified ELA teacher and the author of The Flexible ELA Classroom: Practical Tools for Differentiated Instruction in Grades 4-8. She’s online at

2 thoughts on “Answering the Call: Setting Goals to Meet Social and Emotional Needs of Students

  1. Thank you for reminding us as teachers that we are the living example of God’s characteristics. We set the tone by giving what we want, the protocols of the Christian walk. And although it can be challenging at times it is definitely attainable. I have been researching about relationships in the classroom and not to my surprise it has been confirmed by experts that the most important thing in the learning classroom is our “Connections”. How we bond with our students and set a trusting environment determines a place of educational, spiritual and emotional excellence. We are driven by acknowledgement , the idea that we matter to God and those around us.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. We are all busy, but it is always nice to connect with those whose ideas are close to our own. The reason I chose the title “Answering the Call” is because, like you, I see the deeper spiritual aspect of teaching as both a privilege and responsibility. Thanks for connecting.

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