Social Emotional Learning

What Does Social Emotional Learning Mean for Your Class?

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What does social emotional learning mean to me?

Top of the morning to you! ☘️ What does social emotional learning mean to me? Well, let me use my greeting as a means of explanation.

No, I am not Irish (but I am Scottish!). This morning I went on a walk, and that almost always lifts my mood. 

You see, I was awake early this morning (don’t ask 🥴), and almost immediately I was mentally inundated with what I had managed to ignore all weekend. 

My brain was awash with ideas, and I was overwhelmed.  

Realizing my mental and emotional state it was hard to get up from my computer, but I did because experience has told me that I must.

Since my walk, I can tell you, my whole system has calmed down, and I am excited, focused, and a bit more organized mentally now.  

Not bad for someone with ADHD who was overwhelmed an hour ago.

For me,  a part of social emotional learning (aka SEL),  means understanding what I need to do when my whole system is in an uproar. 

Quite a gift you have the potential to give your students, isn’t it? 😊 

What does SEL mean to a class?

As a teacher, if you haven’t discovered it already, you soon will discover that being an effective educator goes beyond just sharing academic knowledge.  

We have children for a good part of the day. Some parents will say that we see their children more than they do.

If that is the case, it is essential that we consider their moral and emotional well being as well. And that, my friends, brings us full circle back to our initial question, “What does social emotional learning mean?”

Today, we’re diving into the fascinating world of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to explore what it means, its benefits, and how it can be seamlessly integrated into your classroom. 

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Social emotional instructions provides the tools students need to thrive.

Social Emotional Learning: Unraveling the Meaning

What is Social Emotional Learning in Schools?

Just before we take a deep dive, let’s start with a definition.

Social Emotional Learning, is an educational framework  for fostering emotional intelligence and developing essential life skills in students. 

SEL instruction is the process of students acquiring and applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions students are given tools for a more resilient and successful life.

In other words, social-emotional learning programs equip students with the tools they need not only to excel academically but also to thrive socially and emotionally, which are crucial for success in life. 

What is social emotional learning in schools? SEL is what I call 60 year learning. Raising butterflies in the classroom is wonderful, engaging, and cultivates a desire for lifelong learning. 

But the specifics of the parts of the animal or the habitat (ie academic knowledge accumulated) is often temporary.    

However,  teaching students the needs of the butterfly, creating compassion for the challenges they face through habitat destruction, and helping the students to understand they have an ethical responsibility to care for the environment, while enabling them to provide that care in some large or small way are lessons that they will carry with them for 60 years or more.  

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Social emotional learning can occur throughout the classroom day. Integrating instruction with consistent opportunities to practice what they learn provides children with tools for a lifetime.

Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning

Why is Social Emotional Learning Important?

Now that we’ve defined what Social Emotional Learning means, let’s chat about all the benefits it offers to both students and teachers:

1. Improved Academic Performance

SELresearch shows that  social-emotional learning and the brain work together to enhance  students’ concentration, problem-solving abilities, and decision-making skills, leading to better academic outcomes.

2. Improved Emotional Intelligence

By learning to recognize and manage their emotions, students are able to build healthier relationships and often record fewer instances of conflict. This ultimately creates a more positive classroom environment.

3. Stress Reduction

SEL instruction gives students stress management techniques, helping them cope with academic pressures and life challenges more effectively.

4. Empathy and Compassion 

Social & emotional learning nurtures empathy, and encourages students to be more understanding and considerate of their peers, leading to improved social interactions.

5. Life-Long Skills

The skills acquired through SEL in schools are not just for the classroom but are applicable throughout life. These skills will help students navigate the complexities of adulthood.

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As identified above, providing SEL instruction and skills practise to your class will provide lifelong value to your students.

The Social-Emotional Learning Controversy

Addressing the Controversies Surrounding SEL

While the benefits of social-emotional learning competencies are well-documented, like any educational concept, it does face some controversy. 

Critics argue that social-emotional learning skills could be too intrusive or ideological.  Some say it is “liberal indoctrination,” say the programs focus too much on children’s identities.

Sometimes the challenge is because it is not fully understood.  Or perhaps it creates a fear of the unknown.  

People who have experienced trauma can try very hard avoid feeling their feelings. The result is they may feel lost, afraid, confused or even threatened when teachers or their children start to discuss these things.

People who have developed their emotional intelligence are more comfortable setting boundaries which is also a threat to some.  

These people deserve our respect, understand and compassion, but it is important to remember the purpose of teaching SEL. 

Social-emotional learning programs aim to develop essential life skills that can help students in various aspects of their lives.

Storytime 🙂

**Caution** Possible trigger.

So, I am going to share a personal moment about one of those emotions we tend to be less comfortable with; anger.  Nothing bad happened.  Quite the opposite.  But I want to recognize the different journeys people experience. 

One day when my children were young, I was in the kitchen, and they were playing in another room.

I pulled a jar of pickled beets out of the fridge, and somehow I dropped them, shattering the jar.  

Red beet juice everywhere!  Including . . .  all over my newly painted white  floorboards. 😠

I was tired, stressed, and stretched. 

There was no energy left to deal with this. 

I didn’t realize it right away, but I was looking for a target for my frustration.

As I looked around I realized that there was no one to blame.  It was an accident, and I was the culprit. I got over it, and I cleaned it up.

That was the day I learned the difference between anger and frustration.  

I was about 34 years old.  

It was a little bit longer before I realized that even if it was anger, I didn’t need a target; just needed space to process it.

I have learned a lot about my emotions since that time, and I can’t tell you how much better my life has been because I did.  I wish I had learned more about my feelings earlier.

Social-emotional learning lesson plans and activities are not about indoctrination.  They are about  providing students with the tools to make informed decisions and develop into well-rounded people. 

This can be done while recognizing the importance of striking a balance and ensuring that social emotional learning curriculum implementation respects cultural and individual differences. 

Phew! 😅

Exploring Social Emotional Learning Topics

Social and emotional learning encompasses various topics that can be explored in the classroom, such as:

1. Emotions – Teaching students to identify emotions.

2. Self-Awareness – Teaching students that everyone has strengths and stretches, and that it is important to be able to identify and recognize their own.

3. Relationships – Defining together the attributes of healthy relationships. 

4. Responsible Decision-Making – Identifying  students what constitutes an informed choice.

5. Communication – Determining the essential communication skills such as active listening and conflict resolution.

Building Social Emotional Learning Skills

Developing Essential SEL Skills

Ultimately, SEL is about equipping students with crucial life skills. 

As the class delves into the topics above, hopefully they will start to develop the following skills, as they implement what they have learned above.

1. Self-Awareness – Understanding their emotions and strengths.

2. Self-Management – Regulating emotions and setting goals.

3. Social Awareness – Empathy and understanding others’ perspectives.

4. Relationship Skills – Implementing the skills that are necessary for building and maintaining  

    positive relationships.

5. Responsible Decision-Making –  Making ethical and informed choices.

Why is Social-Emotional Learning Important for Your Classroom?

As journey through the school year with your students, it’s crucial to grasp the significance of SEL and its profound impact on students’ lives. 

Having done the deep dive  into the meaning of SEL, we have discussed  that it encompasses the development of crucial life skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and effective communication. 

You are helping students with their academics,  and also equipping them with invaluable tools for navigating the complexities of the real world.

Hopefully you can see that the importance of integrating SEL instruction into your teaching practices cannot be overstated. 

SEL not only fosters a more inclusive and supportive classroom environment but also contributes to improved academic performance, enhanced interpersonal relationships, and long-term personal well-being for your students. 

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is now recognized as being more central to life success than EQ. 

By nurturing their emotional intelligence through social emotional learning lessons you are empowering them to become resilient, empathetic, and socially competent individuals.

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The skills drawn from SEL instruction and practice are the skills that will enable your students to live a happier, more successful, and more productive life.

Teaching SEL is not just a classroom activity:

Teaching SEL is

  •  A lifelong investment in the holistic growth and development of your students. 
  • About building a safe, nurturing space where they can flourish academically and emotionally. 

As you embark on your teaching career, embrace SEL as a cornerstone of your pedagogical approach and classroom management plan. 

As you dedicate yourself to nurturing both the hearts and minds of your students, you  will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact that extends far beyond the classroom walls. 

Together, let’s foster a generation of empathetic, resilient, and emotionally intelligent individuals ready to face the challenges of an ever-evolving world.

If you are wondering how to apply what I have written about here, check out my next blog postRoad to Success! How to include Social Emotional Learning Activities All Day Long 

Even if teaching a social emotional learning curriculum is not an option for you in your school or district, this blog post will help you to incorporate SEL into your classroom.

What does social emotional learning mean in your classroom? 

Share one goal you have for SEL instruction in the comments below. As we pool our ideas and experiences, or even our fears we become better together!  🤗

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