With so many myths floating around about Social Emotional Learning (SEL), I felt the need to come clean with what I know about it. As a former RAMP certified School Counselor, I am all about data collection and data driven lesson planning. I have personally witnessed the effects of teaching SEL activities across many grade levels during my classroom interventions. But, I want you to be the judge for yourself. Let’s take a closer look at common questions and the truth about Social Emotional Learning from a School Counselor’s perspective. Hint, it’s pretty much all positive.
What is Social Emotional Learning?
Is there an official social-emotional learning definition? Well, there are many similar explanations of this complicated concept but they all boil down to some key elements. It’s sometimes referred to as social and emotional learning. It involves teaching children and adolescents how to recognize and express their emotions, develop positive relationships, problem-solve and make responsible decisions – all of which are essential life skills. SEL can help individuals develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making, all of which are key components of emotional intelligence.
Where Did SEL start?
SEL has been around for centuries, but the modern concept was first developed in the early 1990s by an American psychologist named Dr. Maurice Elias. He defined SEL as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Since then, SEL has become more widely accepted and integrated into the education system. Today, SEL is seen as an essential part of learning, helping students and adults alike to develop skills that are important for success in all aspects of life.
Who teaches Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning skills can be taught by many different professionals, including teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and other mental health professionals. Each can provide instruction and guidance. Parents can strengthen these skills by modeling and continuing discussions at home as they pertain to family dynamics. Families can also work together to create social emotional learning activities at home. Parents can model breathing techniques or even create a “calm down corner” in the home for self-regulation.
Does Social-Emotional Learning Benefit Everyone?
SEL has been found to have a number of beneficial outcomes in the classroom and beyond. According to research, students who engage in SEL have improved academic performance, better communication and problem-solving skills, stronger social skills and relationships, better self-control and self-awareness, improved school climate, and better mental health. Additionally, students who are involved in SEL are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and find success in the workplace.
Additionally, SEL can help create a more inclusive and accepting society, as it encourages empathy and understanding of different perspectives. With increased self-awareness and understanding of others, SEL can help foster a more harmonious environment, both in schools and in society at large.
Misconceptions about SEL
I never really expected social emotional learning controversy amongst stakeholders at our schools. Yet, it exists.
One of the most common misconceptions about SEL is that it takes away from time and resources that are allocated to academic subjects. However, research has shown that SEL actually provides a foundation for academic success.
Another myth lies in is the comparison to Critical Race Theory (CRT). SEL and CRT are two distinct concepts. While SEL focuses on self awareness, which could include awareness of societal constructs, CRT is a more specific analytical framework that examines the systemic effects of racism in our society and how power, privilege, and oppression are perpetuated by laws, policies, and practices.
How do I model SEL skills to my Students?
- Model positive behavior: As the instructor, you should be the model for all students for positive behavior in the classroom. Demonstrate the skills you expect to see in your students such as respect, collaboration, and taking responsibility for their actions.
- Focus on relationships: Establishing positive relationships with your students is essential for creating a supportive classroom environment. Encourage your students to express their feelings, ask questions, and work together to solve problems.
- Incorporate SEL activities: Incorporating activities that focus on SEL can help students develop their social and emotional skills. Some activities to try include role-playing, mindfulness exercises, and team-building activities. Try printing out this list of coping skills to give to students.
- Provide feedback: Providing feedback to your students is a great way to help them understand their own emotions and actions, as well as those of others. Make sure to provide feedback in a constructive way and focus on helping your students learn how to manage their emotions and behavior. Talk to students about finding the life lessons in constructive criticism and having a growth mindset.
Many educators are turning to these SEL brochures to support students because they include the most common topics needed to support students throughout the school year. Some of the many topics include; emotional regulation, growth mindset, mindfulness, coping skills for self-regulation, anger management, diversity, grief & loss, healthy choices, catching negative thoughts, friendship skills, dealing with bullies, self esteem, self confidence, body confidence, family changes, stress relief, study skills, goal setting, hygiene, teasing, gratitude, apologizing, empathy, conflict resolution, deep breathing and more. These can be posted in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and counseling offices so that more students will get more support, more often.
If you are ready to go all in on the SEL train, you can start by following the tips above. Additionally, you can find many print and go, data driven lessons and units in my educator shop for tier 1, 2 and 3 interventions. I also have a lot of free resources with reviews for you to start using right now.