A child’s true success in education is marked by more than being book smart. It involves learning and growing in a variety of areas outside of academics that will help them navigate everyday challenges and opportunities and become better people all around.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for that growth in school, work, and life success. People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. More specifically, it helps them understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Some NYC charter schools have implemented SEL practices as a commitment to the development of the whole child—or tending to their growth all around. SEL can come to life in core subject classrooms, during physical education, or during elective classes throughout the day, and there are many benefits to having these practices consistently show up in a child’s education.
Benefits of SEL
When students are consistently exposed to opportunities to develop their social-emotional skills, they gain a repertoire of emotional language and problem-solving skills they can use to navigate the day with more ease and confidence. SEL instruction sets the foundation for both teachers and students to learn from and understand each other better. There are many personal benefits to being social and emotionally aware. Here are five key components that students are able to build through social-emotional learning:
Confidence and self-awareness
Students learn to understand their own emotions, thoughts, values, and experiences and how they influence their actions. They’re able to better identify their individual strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas, empowering them to make positive choices and pursue things that are in their best interest.
Students are able to regulate and control their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors during stressful situations and create safer and inclusive environments for everyone. This may take the form of staying organized to enhance the ability to focus, goal-setting, controlling impulses, and overall self-discipline.
Students encounter tons of decision points throughout the day. With SEL skills, students learn to consider the consequences of their actions, are able to assess different scenarios, and know when to ask for help when needed.
Students are able to empathize with others and make decisions that help foster a positive classroom environment. They grow to understand different perspectives around topics such as gender, race, and religion, creating a more respectable and inclusive environment in which everyone can be themselves and thrive.
Students learn to make positive connections with others while taking their emotions into account. This could look like being an active listener and communicating their thoughts effectively and warmly.
What it looks like
Social-emotional learning is an all-hands-on-deck practice and should be implemented and reinforced both at home and school. Schools are already equipping school leaders, psychologists, and SEL specialists with the strategies to work together to support student’s overall development in this area. Partnership with parents and guardians is a key component of that ongoing social-emotional support for students.
Social-emotional learning may take many forms throughout the school day, in subtle or more obvious ways, as it is not meant to be a remedy but a form of practice.
Starting the day
Once students arrive at school, morning meetings are a prime opportunity for them to develop SEL skills, as they build relationships with teachers and peers and set the tone for the day. Students participate in team-building activities that give them opportunities to practice communicating in a variety of ways, build trust among others, create a safe environment, and create a community of open-minded learners.
Teachers may equip their classroom libraries with texts that support the development of students’ social-emotional learning. Books can be used to facilitate classroom conversations that build a shared language for talking about SEL themes.
Mindfulness and Meditations
Just like adults, mindfulness and meditation help children manage their emotions and stress, and work through them more quickly. These can take the form of breathing or movement exercises in between transitions from activities. Learning how to reduce your stress with meditation is an important skill to learn at a young age.
SEL also lives in the form of responding when students encounter emotional challenges throughout the day that may impede their ability to learn or participate in current activities. When a child is stressed due to a tough problem, has a disagreement with a peer, or experiences a personal trigger, teachers may provide them with a designated area or therapeutic tools to help them calm down and regulate their emotions.