Making its way to a school system near you, if it isn’t being implemented already, is Social and Emotional Learning, or simply SEL. And it couldn’t come at a better time because more and more students are struggling with peer-to-peer relations. According to CASEL, a collaborative for professionals who are using SEL in their educational settings, 40% of students feel chronically disengaged from their peers translating into an overall sense of disconnection from both peers and the educational experience as a whole. School districts are realizing how critical SEL is to increasing a sense of interconnectedness and enabling children to have more meaningful and positive relationships overall with both peers and with the world at large.
What Exactly Is SEL And How Does it Help Children in The Long run?
According to CASEL, “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” The knowledge children learn in SEL focused training are the building blocks for creating lasting connection with their peers and the world around them. These skills, so vital to a child’s ability to feel confident relating to other people are something we often assume they are learning at home or experientially through their communities and interactions with peers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many adults lack the training in SEL to effectively teach their children what they need to know to connect, empathize and develop long lasting relationships. And as we all know, relationships are the cornerstone of our success in the workplace later on in life and are predictors too of good health and longevity.
Making SEL Work Takes Commitment From All Involved
The first step in making SEL work in your education environment is admitting it’s needed in the first place. While all children need SEL to thrive, it is in fact children on the autistic spectrum who are demonstrating the greatest urgency. As the fastest growing diagnostic demographic in the U.S. today, children on the spectrum benefit immensely from SEL focused on helping them learn empathy, goal setting, impulse control and distress tolerance. When schools, educators and parents commit to making SEL a part of the learning environment, they set the stage for creating future adults capable of connection, positive conflict resolution, genuine empathy and long-term resilience.
How Does SEL Get Rolled Out?
When SEL is implemented, it’s not just taught in the classroom, but also becomes part of the DNA of how a school operates interpersonally. Thus, SEL serves as way more than a philosophy but a tangible roadmap for interaction and connection within the educational community. When modeled by the entire adult community, the program has a much higher likelihood of being adopted by the student body. Of course, successful implementation takes commitment on all levels from administration, staff, students and parents alike. Implementing SEL is a decision, not a just a curriculum you buy.
The Success of SEL In The School System Takes Accountability
One of the main reasons SEL gets introduced into the school environment is to make a positive impact; on each individual and on the community as a whole. But how do you prove that it’s working? You have to decide how to measure it. One of the most noted areas of impact that CASEL has measured in a recent study are grade point average and behavior issues. According to their most recent data, students who have SEL implemented in their school receive grade point average increases of around 11%. In addition to higher grades, administrators of schools with sEL programs report significantly lower instances of behavior issues in the classroom.