Bridging the Social Emotional Communication Gap

The purpose of this study was to explore social-emotional needs and supports of the modern middle school student. This period of early adolescence is ripe with change and challenge and this greatly impacts academic readiness and achievement in the classroom. The goal of this investigation was to answer the question of what is the potential need and impact of teacher mentors supporting the social emotional development of middle school students. This was researched by examining relevant literature and conducting surveys at a middle school in northern San Diego county. A triangulated mixed methods survey questioned students on school climate and communication with teachers, while teachers were questioned about their willingness to mentor students and support social-emotional learning (SEL). 25 students and 8 teachers were surveyed and their responses were analyzed. Overall, students had positive views of their abilities, the school climate, and their relationships with teachers, but they had markedly low levels of communication. On the other hand, teachers reported a strong willingness to support SEL and mentor students of various levels even though they felt that they did not have much institutional support or helpful professional development. The recommendation of this study is to invest in the human capital of willing and devoted professionals and develop a structure within the school day that fosters relation building and communication between teachers and their students. This could go far to voicing a silent need for students to access social emotional support during a challenging period of life and development.