Leaders play a critical role in the implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools. As a reminder, there are 5 competencies of SEL, they are as follows; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision making. Several leaders from around the region gathered on March 10th to spend the day with Dr. Maurice Elias of Rutgers University to learn about just how significant their role is in the task of prioritizing and expanding SEL in our area schools.
Although SEL has been an educational priority for decades, attention to such learning has increased a great deal recently. Why? One reason is the mounting scientific evidence that proposes that SEL skills play a vital role in success in school and life beyond school, including one’s ability to understand and manage their emotions. Throughout the day, school leaders reflected on the significant impact that mental health and trauma have had on their students, families and communities, as well as the urgent need for SEL within the context of the school day. Additionally, interpersonal skills are in high demand from businesses around the world. Employers want people that are able to communicate and interact well with others.
So what do school leaders need for effective SEL leadership? First and foremost, they themselves must possess or improve upon their own SEL skills and SEL leadership skills. In the words of Dr. Elias, “The future of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Social Emotional Character Development (SECD) depends more than ever on the quality of leadership within schools and school districts, both generally and as focused on SEL/SECD.” Additionally, a clear vision, an understanding of the interrelationship between school climate and SEL, a current climate assessment, the ability to manage improvement/change initiatives and finally, the ability to inspire.
Despite all of the learning that took place around the leadership role of comprehensive SEL implementation in early March, our leaders collectively realized that while we have many strengths in this area, we have work to do. No improvement initiative is simple, it cannot be remedied with a “quick fix,” it takes time and persistence. Some of the actionable goals for leaders that are vital, include, infrastructure development, school identity clarification integration, climate/culture/skills assessments, promotion of student voice, connection to existing mandates and making connections with schools/districts that are “walking the walk.”
We look forward to facilitating meaningful, collaborative experiences that center around SEL Leadership and Implementation to continue the necessary steps towards improvement. Together, we must guarantee that students are in a positive school climate and will systemically learn social-emotional competencies and character virtues essential for life, this cannot be optional.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools