“He does not play well with others.” This was the phrase I overheard a teacher utter to a colleague in a staff development session this week. She was talking about one of her new students. I’m guessing many teachers can relate to this concern. With the start of school comes a lot of students being dropped into classrooms with less than stellar social skills.

I understand this problem, personally. I had horrible social skills when I was younger. I wanted to have friends, but was socially awkward. I had very off-putting behaviors and since we never see ourselves the way others see us, I was completely unaware of my skill deficits. To make matters worse, I was (and remain) an extrovert. So my behaviors were on full display – for all to see.

Luckily as I have gotten older, my social skills have improved. In fact, I’d venture to say that the deficits of my youth have become my strengths as an adult. Why just this week I believe my social skills helped me avoid getting a speeding ticket. The officer was in quite the grumpy mood when we began talking, but we were both laughing by the time he gave me a warning and went on his way. (In my defense, I was completely unaware the speed limit had changed just before getting to Pleasanton, Texas.)

Teachers, many students are coming to school having had more experience interacting with screens than with peers. And if these students haven’t had practice with social interactions, they are going to have skill deficits in this area. Just as we teach academic subjects, so too will we need to spend time on social behaviors. Your students’ behaviors will improve, but for some it will take a great deal of time and practice, so be patient.