The Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on individuals, families, and small businesses. But nowhere has the fallout been as dire as what we’ve seen in the world of education. In so many ways, children have been overlooked. They’ve gone through a lot during the past year. They’ve transitioned from a physical learning environment, to a virtual one, and now it looks like they’ll be heading back to the classroom once again.
If there’s one thing all the disruption to traditional learning environments has taught us, it’s the importance of understanding just how essential social emotional learning (SEL) is to our students. Decades of research shows: students who come from SEL environments see better academic achievement, manage depression and stress better and have better self-images. Incredibly, studies also show that SEL has an impact on improving economic mobility and reducing poverty.
But to fully understand SEL, we need to delve deeper - we need to look at how to teach social emotional learning in the classroom now more than ever before. Where do we start? First by examining one simple thing: what is social emotional learning in the classroom.
And before we can even get to that, we must ask what does social emotional learning mean? Learn more, as we explore the concept of SEL and just how imperative it is to our students.
When we talk about social emotional learning, we’re referring to the process by which students (both adults and children) can understand and completely feel their emotions. SEL allows us to grow in a number of very critical areas of life - both inside and outside the classroom. Social emotional learning gives students the ability to do things such as:
It’s clear that the benefits are well worth the effort it takes to implement SEL into the classroom. In order to fully do that, we must understand the five core competencies that social emotional learning entails.
One of the first components of social emotional learning is self-awareness. We all need to make an effort to understand what we’re feeling, why we're feeling it, and how we typically would (and more importantly, should) react in situations. It’s easy for students to respond without thinking. Thus, part of our self-awareness is learning how to control our emotions, instead of letting them control us.
BENEFIT: Through self-awareness, students can begin to learn how to get in touch with their emotions and understand why they feel a certain way in various situations. In turn, they can begin to control how they react.
After students learn how to identify their emotions effectively, they can begin to better manage them. Let’s say a student instinctively gets angry often or quickly. Self-management is one of the most effective classroom management strategies and can teach students how to calm down. With a focus on SEL, they might start to think about how they’ll respond before they take action.
BENEFIT: Self-management can be an important part of helping students remain focused on lessons, manage relationships better, and make sure they’re finishing work on time.
Social emotional learning also includes an emphasis on responsible decision-making. Students must learn how to take responsibility for their actions. It’s important for adults and educators to model this type of behavior. That way, we can encourage students to follow in our footsteps.
There are a number of ways responsible decision-making can impact academic achievement. For example, students need to learn how to prioritize school work instead of putting it off until the last minute. They need to learn how to balance their commitment to sports, extracurricular activities, and building relationships with their friends. Teachers can demonstrate responsible decision-making through their own effective classroom management.
BENEFIT: If students are able to make responsible decisions, they can set positive, achievable goals for themselves.
Social awareness is yet another part of any SEL curriculum. Every student should be taught to be aware of individual social situations. It’s one way they can learn to take the emotions of others into account. Teachers who run effective classrooms will try to ensure students begin to show empathy for one another.
BENEFIT: Even though this type of emotional intelligence can be challenging for some young children, it’s a key part of a strong growth mindset. Ultimately, social awareness can set students up for academic (and personal!) success in the future.
Finally, the last SEL skill required in the classroom is relationship skills. Students should begin to build positive and healthy relationships with their peers, family members, friends, and teachers. Positive personal behavior is a social emotional skill that is a critical part of student success. Learning interpersonal skills and SEL principles - like conflict resolution - can help foster a positive learning environment, making it easier for students to build strong and positive relationships.
There are times when students will need help managing social interactions. Interacting with friends on a playground is very different from having a one-on-one meeting with an educator or working with group members on a collaborative project.
BENEFIT: When students learn how to show empathy, they’re set up for life-long success. The relationship skills competency is one of the most significant aspects of SEL implementation.
These types of social emotional skills should be looked at as the foundation of the learning process. But how, as educators, do you pull these concepts into your regular curriculum?
If you’re looking to bring these SEL competencies into your classroom, consider the positive effect innovation in the classroom can offer to social emotional learning activities. Clarus Glass boards are a perfect example. EmpowerED products are innovative tools designed to provide teachers and students with a creative, integrated learning environment. These products specifically help teachers break through isolated learning environments - something that’s more important for academic success now than ever before, as students are likely going to need to adjust once again to the old-new-again way they’re expected to focus and learn in the classroom.
Using various classroom engagement strategies and new technology, teachers can help students engage with lessons, gain confidence when public speaking, and more. Imagine having the power to change how students give presentations - the confidence they’ll build when they have the opportunity to speak in front of their peers. Just think about how invested they’ll become in their own academic and social emotional education.
If you’ve ever wondered what does social emotional learning mean, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Being curious means you care. And even though implementing social emotional learning may seem difficult, even overwhelming at first, it doesn’t have to be. Teachers just need to remember - there are plenty of SEL resources, like using glass boards to reach all learning styles - that can help them get the most out of the SEL implementation process.