Multi-tier systems of support (MTSS) and social emotional learning (SEL) can be a game changer in the world of academics if merged together properly, effectively, and with fidelity. The biggest key to getting the marriage started off on the right path is to shifting the mindset of our educators about MTSS.
It is crucial that the mentality about of MTSS needs to be in the right place. Establishing in the minds of the educators that MTSS is not a path to getting students out of the general education classroom but instead a way to identify areas that need approving then applying evidence-based approaches and interventions to help support those areas.
Think about the following two scenarios that many can relate to.
Scenario One: Samuel has a headache he goes to the medicine cabinet grabs the Tylenol reads the proper dosage, selects that amount, grabs a glass of water, and proceeds to take the proper amount of Tylenol. In about five to ten minutes his headache begins to improve.
Scenario Two: Samuel has a headache. Samuel goes to the hospital and request emergency surgery because he assumes he has a brain tumor because his head began to hurt.
Now we all know scenario one is the most logical path to take for a headache. If you do begin having headaches for a period of days, weeks, or month and Tylenol does not provide relief then going to your primary doctor would be in order. Still the doctor would not recommend emergency surgery without the proper test begin conducted to rule out several other possible factors.
With all of that being said why would we push a student through a systematic approach without following the actual systematic approach. Also, before even considering interventions and additional supports should we not review the core instruction? Should we not determine if it is a strong core instruction.
Now dividing into SEL. Many still do not see how SEL and MTSS go hand in hand. Many still do not process that if the child is struggling socially and emotionally whether at school, home, or both; it does not matter how many hours you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into the planning of your lesson plans, if the student is struggling socially and or emotionally they will not be able to learn without gaining proper support in their SEL.
Evidence-based SEL programs and approaches are key components to establishing positive behavior supports and interventions. SEL programs and approaches can be a Tier I universal component; all students should receive this. School counselors should be able to conduct their guided lessons focusing on SEL and without being burden with additional non-related counseling duties so that they can implement this core component which is interwind with MTSS.
Additionally, incorporating SEL creatively into the general education lessons within the classrooms at early ages Pre-Kindergarten to second grade could be an excellent start to helping the younger children be better prepared as they enter third grade when testing begins. Of course I truly believe incorporating SEL in all classrooms at all grade levels would be beneficial if done effectively.
Going back to my initial statement MTSS and SEL could be a game changer in the world of academics if merged together properly, effectively, and with fidelity. Shifting the mindset that MTSS is not a pathway to pushing students into exceptional children (EC) programs when all they may need is a few additional interventions to help close the learning gap.
Peace & Love, Laurel