Social-Emotional Learning is a Life-long Process

Broadly speaking, Social and Emotional Learning, or “SEL” is the process that all humans go through as they develop from babies, to children and then adults. It is the process of learning life-skills that are needed to become a well-adjusted adult in society. By “well-adjusted”, I mean a person who can hold employment, contribute positively to society, care for one’s own health and safety, and build and maintain healthy relationships with others. If I was allowed to rename “SEL”, I’d probably call it, “Well-Adjusted Humans Instruction”, or WAHI, for short. Doesn’t have the same ring though, haha.

Unfortunately, adults who have not learned appropriate social skills or emotional regulation strategies as they’ve matured may struggle with many problems in life, including substance abuse, negative relationships, isolation from society, or unemployment. Just think of someone that you know, maybe even in your own family, who has struggled with coping with their emotions by smoking, drinking, over eating, or using drugs, or who cannot hold down a regular job. Often these difficulties as adults can be traced back to difficulties with managing emotions, self-esteem, or social skills as a child that were never addressed, other than through discipline.

What does SEL do for Kids Exactly?

SEL teaches kids how to get along with others, make good choices, and solve problems in everyday life. SEL can help kids learn the tools and strategies for building strong friendships, communicating better, and handling tough situations without losing control of their emotions or behavior.

It’s the instruction and practice that can help kids understand how to be kind, make friends, and do well in school. While educators focus on SEL may be to improve learning and decrease behaviors in the classroom, Social Emotional Learning has the potential to help kids far beyond the walls of the classroom.

Why are teachers being asked to provide SEL?

Teachers may be asked to provide social and emotional learning (SEL) because it helps students within the school setting in many important ways. First, SEL helps students understand and manage their emotions, which can make it easier for them to focus on learning.

It also teaches them how to communicate well, solve problems, and work in teams, which are skills they’ll need to be successful in school, and throughout their life. Does your job require you to work cooperatively with others? I know mine does! And while I won’t name any names here, it can be difficult at times for sure! 

SEL also encourages kindness, empathy, and understanding, making classrooms and communities happier and more respectful places. Ultimately, it helps students succeed not only academically, but also helps them to learn and practice skills that will help them get and keep better jobs or even run their own business and manage…other people.

What can social and emotional learning look like in the classroom?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom can take on various forms and strategies tailored to the needs and age of the students. Here’s a glimpse of what SEL looks like in the classroom:

  • Morning Meetings and Check-Ins: Teachers often start the day with a brief morning meeting where students can share their feelings, discuss any concerns, or talk about what they’re looking forward to. This creates a positive and open atmosphere for the day.
  • SEL Curriculum Integration: Teachers incorporate SEL into their lessons, dedicating time to explicitly teach skills like self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, communication, and decision-making. This can be through stories, discussions, role-playing, or other interactive activities.
  • Conflict Resolution Practice: Students learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully and constructively. Teachers guide them in discussing conflicts, understanding different perspectives, and finding solutions that work for everyone involved.
  • Group Activities and Collaborative Learning: Assigning group projects and encouraging collaborative learning helps students develop social skills such as teamwork, cooperation, and effective communication. It provides opportunities to appreciate diverse viewpoints and work towards a common goal.
  • Emotion Check-Ins: Teachers may incorporate regular “emotion check-ins” during the day, where students can identify and express their feelings. This can be done through activities like drawing an emotion on a chart or using emotion cards.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Exercises: Introducing mindfulness techniques and relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or short guided meditations, can help students manage stress and anxiety, enhancing their emotional well-being.
  • Behavior Modeling and Reinforcement: Teachers model positive social and emotional behavior and provide reinforcement and praise when students demonstrate these behaviors. This reinforcement helps reinforce the importance of SEL skills.
  • Classroom Norms and Expectations: Establishing classroom norms and expectations collectively with the students helps create a safe and respectful environment, fostering a sense of belonging and trust.
  • Use of instructional materials that teach SEL concepts: Teachers can have daily or weekly activities, such as videos or games that provide instruction and practice with a variety of Social Skills or Emotional Regulation skills.

Overall, integrating SEL in the classroom creates a positive and inclusive learning environment that not only supports academic growth but also nurtures the development of well-rounded, emotionally intelligent individuals. This will not only help children to learn academic skills, but gain personal skills that will help them to persevere the challenges of both education and becoming an independent, working adult with good self-esteem and positive relationships that can lead to a happy life.

To learn some different types of Tier 1 SEL Activities, including Restorative Circles, read, How to Provide Tier 1 Instruction for Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom.

If you are looking for a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum that is budget friendly…

Please check out the Summit SEL Curriculum for Elementary School students TK- 6th Grades! Each grade level has its own curriculum plan for the year that is designed to be developmentally appropriate, as well as fun, engaging, and supports the 5 competencies of SEL!

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