Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities. (from https://casel.org/what-is-sel/)
These skills are critical for success in school and in life, and are more important now than ever as we navigate the uncertainties of COVID-19 and heightened issues of social justice.
To build these skills, we must teach students specific techniques and strategies while also providing opportunities for application and practice. School staff have resources within the rethinkEd curriculum to teach the foundation of these skills, and access to additional resources and supports through their Learning Environment Specialist (LES) and the Office of Student Support Services.
Below are some ways that adults can reinforce and build up these competencies in students:
- Self-Awareness: Identifying Emotions
- Express your emotions freely and appropriately, and encourage children to do the same, e.g. “I’m glad you're enjoying your math class this year!" or "I'm frustrated that we still have to worry about COVID-19.”
- Create routines and structures to discuss emotions regularly, e.g. at the beginning or end of the day, at the start and end of the week, or at other specific points of time, check-in by asking “How are you feeling?”. Listen closely and without judgement. Affirm what is shared and, as appropriate, brainstorm ways to help.
- Focus on increasing emotional literacy by using more precise language to describe emotions. Move beyond happy, sad, mad and glad to joyous, disappointed, furious and elated. Use resources such as emojis or a feelings wheel (http://feelingswheel.com/) to expand vocabulary.
- Self-Management: Stress Management
- Model positive stress management techniques in the moment, e.g. pause and take a deep breath when something is not working out. Be clear in explaining what you’re doing and encourage children to join you.
- Brainstorm with children to identify things that cause stress day-to-day, and come up with ways to prevent or respond to these situations in the moment.
- Identify stress-busters – activities that help to relieve stress in a positive way, e.g. spending time outside, physical activity, reading or watching a movie, or connecting with a friend. Plan to incorporate one of these activities daily.
- Social Awareness: Support Systems
- Be transparent in discussing your personal support system with children. State who you go to when you need help, how you utilize them, and how it supports you. Show that it’s important to seek assistance from others.
- Discuss who makes up a child’s support system. This can be a broad or individual conversation. Identify folks at school, at home, and within the community who can provide support with various needs. As necessary, help children to consider how they can approach these individuals to seek support, e.g. “What can you say to your teacher when you’re having trouble?”.
- Talk with children about how they provide support to others. Highlight and celebrate when they serve as a resource to a friend, family member, or neighbor. Brainstorm creative ways that they can be supportive remotely or in person.
- Self-Management: Resilience
- Highlight when you are navigating a challenging situation and are continuing to persevere. Acknowledge how it can be tough to stay focused and keep going when things aren’t working out, and share the strategies and techniques you’re using to stay focused.
- Celebrate the small successes and day-to-day accomplishments, e.g. completing a challenging assignment or finishing a project for home or for school. Recognize that hard work and effort that went in to these accomplishments.
- Identify and discuss when others are demonstrating resilience, e.g. public figures or people that you know. Acknowledge the set-backs they are facing and how they are dealing with them as they move forward.
- Self-Awareness: Identifying Emotions