I have frequent cause to wonder if these teachers are familiar with the difference in definition between a babysitter and a teacher, and which one they feel best applies to them?
I believe a balance can be found. There is a time and a place for focusing on social-emotional learning; it is an extremely important part of the curriculum for all students, but especially for this population. But those can be hours and days in the schedule or embedded parts of the academic routine - not the schedule and totality of instruction itself.
I think of my student who was so anxious about his mother's illness he could barely stay in the classroom. So we integrated his math and reading goals into the walking and picture taking in the hallway that calmed him and helped him self-regulate. Those math and reading goals actually progressed ahead of expectations, allowing him more time to focus on in classroom goals once his anxiety level decreased.
I think of another student who simply did not come into the school building for hours. It took the better part of the year and the expertise of multiple teachers, administrators, and outside consultants before we hit upon the magic of a vocational task that provided the right mix of motivation and security and brought him into the building and into class. In the meantime, he missed a significant amount of instructional time in the classroom. But we provided instructional access during that time wherever he was, some of which he was able to access. The amazing progress he made once he began participating in class, advancing multiple grade levels in both reading and math within a year, was proof that our efforts were worth it.
It can be a scary teaching medically involved students, especially those who have experienced educational neglect. (Those who have been kept "safe and happy" with no singnificant instructional demand placed on them - often for years.) When we initially engage their brains in learning, we often also engage their brains in seizures. Brains need to learn to self-regulate as much as our bodies do. That's why they are in school. That is our job as teachers. We cannot stop teaching just because we are afraid of the accompanying increase in seizure activity. We can keep them safe from individual seizures while giving their brains a chance to learn to self-regulate so they can learn and grow.
Knowing what we know about the effects of trauma on behavior, on learning, and on everyday life, we cannot in good conscience be the perpetrators of further educational neglect. Yet that is what we do when we allow our classrooms to be dumping grounds and babysitting services where the achievement criterion is set at "safe and happy." We need safe and happy, but our students deserve more.