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Social and Emotional Learning

A growing number of school districts have initiated a deeper look into developing social and emotional learning in their schools. Some programs are in the form of out-of-school programs, others are curriculum that can be purchased and taught to students. These are great ideas and I’m not against them. But I would challenge schools to go even further. Classroom instruction for students is more than an academic experience for them. Students aren’t robots, they have emotions, feelings, social needs, etc.

They’re human right?

Therefore, the classroom experience involves cognitive, social, and emotional aspects as well. Teacher’s have an undeniable influence on students’ social and emotional development, which means they have the responsibility to influence students in a positive and deliberate manner.

I’m getting ahead of myself and assuming that all educators have heard of and are familiar with SEL.

What is SEL? 

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Social and Emotional Learning is “The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

I like how the definition of SEL includes adults. I’ve seen a lot of SEL that is student-centered without any emphasis on how adults should address their own social and emotional needs. An SEL framework should not assume that the adult has already developed the social and emotional skills necessary to facilitate a classroom of adolescents. Yet research shows that educator’s own social and emotional competencies strongly influence students’ motivation to learn and the school climate in general. It’s not just the students who benefit from these set of skills. I would argue that SEL should begin with adults.

So where does this fit within equity?

Well lots of areas, such as a student’s ability to feel safe and connected to their school, academic issues, and school discipline.

As adults we need to take care of ourselves. Our moods, frustration, and overall levels of stress impact how we serve our students.

Connect with me on Twitter @sheldoneakins

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