Social-Emotional Learning in Schools—Why It’s Important

Social-Emotional Learning in Schools—Why It’s Important

Children across the nation attend school to prepare for tomorrow, to learn academic skills to become the workers and citizens of the future. However, to truly prepare, schools must not only teach math, science, and English, but also the social and emotional skills everyone needs to become a wholesome, responsible adult. According to the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Social Emotional Learning (SEL) 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.” Also known as the “Whole Child Education,” social and emotional learning helps students to succeed in careers and in life.

There are 5 core competencies of SEL, as defined by CASEL:

  • Self-Awareness:

    The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.”

  • Self-Management:

    The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations—effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

  • Responsible Decision-Making:

    The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.

  • Relationship Skills:

    The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.

  • Social Awareness:

    The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Research has proven the benefits of SEL in education, with an 11% gain in academic achievement, fewer conduct problems, and an improvement in skills, attitudes, and behavior. Students are more likely to attend school, receive better grades, receive a diploma, attend college, and have a full-time job by the age of 25.

In order to be truly successful in a career, it is important to not only acquire the academic skills necessary to perform the job, such as math and computing skills for an accountant. SEL programs in schools teach students how to make decisions, solve problems, make goals and reach them, cooperate with others, focus, practice empathy, and handle emotions.

SEL is also beneficial to teachers. As they begin teaching these skills that are so often forgotten, they begin to internalize them. Studies have shown that teachers who believe in the importance of SEL and develop the skills, experience better mental health and more effective teaching. With teacher burnout and attrition rates rising in the past years, SEL could help teachers remember why they love teaching. It could help foster positive relationships between colleagues, teachers and their students, and between the students themselves, contributing to a more positive school climate.

There are various SEL strategies and policies being used across school districts, and many ways to apply it in the in the home and community as well. Teaching children not just the academic skills they need to get good grades but also vital social and emotional skills, will make for a better, more prepared and peaceful generation of tomorrow.

How has SEL made a difference in your classroom?

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