Social-emotional learning (SEL) is spreading like wildfire—and schools districts are starting to implement SEL in their classrooms.
There are many reasons why a school might adopt SEL, all of which have been validated by research: to increase academic success, to lower the stress-levels of students as they strive towards that success; to prevent negative behaviors such as drug use, violence, and bullying; to equip students with the “soft skills” they will need in today’s work environment; and to promote positive relationships and attitudes.
At the core of SEL is cultivating our self-awareness, which begins with an understanding of emotions. Our emotions work with our cognition in a seamless and integrated way to help us navigate the classroom, workplace, our relationships, and the decisions we make in life.
Over the last ten years, emotion researchers have found that negative emotions close us off, making us less resilient and unable to relate with and connect to others; whereas positive emotions such as gratitude, tranquility, love, and joy come with a myriad of benefits. The goal, however, is not to feel positive emotions all the time, but rather to understand how emotions, both negative and positive, impact us. Thus, if we can become aware of our emotions and learn to work with them in a healthy way-to see them as information rather than as overpowering responses that control our actions – then we can choose to respond to situations in a manner that brings out the good in us and in others. I
Social-emotional learning is generally broken down into five categories
Self-awareness is being able to recognize and comprehend one’s emotions and how they translate into our behaviors. This includes recognizing stress or negative emotions, being aware of one’s abilities and weaknesses as well as a “well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism,” according to CASEL.
Self-management takes self-awareness one step further into the ability to regulate one’s feelings and behaviors. This can include controlling anger, handling stress, self-motivation, or persistence through setbacks.
Social awareness looks outward and is about empathizing with others and possessing a willingness to understand and respect the unique experiences, norms, and behaviors of others.
This section is about creating and maintaining healthy relationships through cooperation, active listening, conflict resolution, and communication.
This final section is about making safe, healthy choices that abide by one’s positive and healthy personal moral code and benefit their well-being — and the well-being of others.
For more information, check out https://casel.org/what-is-sel/ and don’t hesitate to reach out to Kathryn Mendell or Tessa Levitt for more information, strategies or professional development.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
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