As adults, we have moments we’re not proud of; Cursing out the bed for a stubbed toe, tensing at the actions of an aggressive driver, or jumping to anger with loved ones. We tend to discount our behavior to the many stresses in our daily lives and have the maturity to self-regulate our emotions. However, we don’t often offer our children the same grace.
When an accidental bump from a sibling or a loss in a game of Monopoly turns into tears, anger, or sulkiness, we are quick to criticize but less likely to offer an alternative. Just as we don’t expect a four-year-old to do multiplication before they have learned the difference between the number 7 and 8, why do we expect a child to be a conscious and considerate community member before they have learned how to identify and manage their stresses and impulses?
“Social-Emotional Learning” or “SEL” is a teaching strategy that sets out to help children build emotional intelligence. By giving children the tools to identify and navigate their own emotions and the effects of these emotions have on their peers, family and the community, SEL hopes to create individuals who are both self and socially aware.
This idea of empowering students with emotional self-awareness was first implemented in several under-performing schools in New Haven, Connecticut with positive outcomes. The results helped stimulate funding, research, and further implementation. In 1994, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) was formed and became the prominent practitioner of SEL in academic and educational settings. However, It was the 1995 publication of Daniel Goleman’s now seminal book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ that brought many of these ideas to a mainstream audience.
The five core competencies of SEL are:
- Self-awareness: understanding one’s own strengths and limitations.
- Self-management: ability to manage stress and be self-motivated.
- Social awareness: being open and understanding of the perspectives of others.
- Relationship skills: ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts constructively, resist negative social pressures and seek help when needed.
- Responsible decision-making: the ability to make ethical choices about personal behavior.
Outcomes of SEL Learning
In 2011, Child Development Journal published the results of an extensive survey of over 200 SEL school programs. The study was the first of its kind and showed that students who practiced social-emotional learning in their classroom or school showed an increase in academic performance, rates of graduation and college attendance, lower rates of drug use and disciplinary action. In short, students exposed to
How is SEL being applied in schools
SEL in the classroom manifests in both big and small ways. From the simple practice of focused breathing to large scale, social service projects in the community. SEL may also include addressing social justice issues such as bias and bullying or through the sharing of personal experiences in role-playing, journal writing, one-on-one or group sharing, guided meditations and student-guided conflict resolution. For more on what SEL looks like in the classroom, visit the Berkley Public School’s SEL toolbox.
How can you apply SEL principles at home?
SEL relies heavily on the fact that it radiates outwards from the classroom and into the home. Parents and guardians can utilize SEL techniques for themselves and the whole family, reiterating school practice and benefiting from a more emotionally intelligent home. Like most behavior, SEL should be modeled by the adults first. Demonstrating patience, listening, and empathy for your kids makes it easy for you to expect the same in return. For more on bringing SEL into the home, check out Parent’s Resource Guide to Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL’s Top 10 Books for Parents or this short video made for parents.