Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) hope to use social skill instruction to address behavior, discipline, safety, and academics to help kids become self-aware, manage their emotions, build social skills (empathy, perspective-taking, appreciating differences), form good relationships, and make positive decisions. In short, “these are the skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.”
As the focus on SEL develops, here are the top five things that you should know.
Typical classroom management involves rules, consequences, and motivation or rewards. But SEL is more than a set of class rules, a plan to help kids “be nice,” or a school-wide pledge to be “kind and caring.” While those ideas are terrific, says Duffell, “they need to be backed up with the time that is set aside in the classroom for evidence-based SEL instruction.” In a school with an SEL program, students are involved in creating the school environment, writing rules, and deciding on consequences. From day one the SEL program isn’t an afterthought, but an integral part of the school day. In kindergarten, kids learn about feelings and practice managing emotions through play. As they get older, students are analyzing literature and history using an SEL focus, case studies and role-plays. Overall, a quality SEL program “merges the content areas of history, literature, and other classes with life skills such as inquiry, active learning, reflection, and awareness of self and others.”
Social and emotional learning not only helps kids work together, it also improves achievement. The gains that schools see in achievement come from a variety of factors—students feel safer, SEL build work habits in addition to social skills, and kids and teachers build strong relationships. The relationship component is important, building relationships with their students may help teachers be more effective.
Social and emotional curriculums are designed to help all the kids in a class. Still, some kids will struggle more than others and students who are going through a hard time at home, or kids with emotional disabilities or ADHD, for example, might need extra help to learn and use the SEL skills.
“SEL takes place within the context of safe school, family, and community environments.” So, as your child’s school starts or develops an SEL program, you can expect to be involved.