Last week, a district administrator shared a question a teacher asked, "So, how do I integrate SEL? Just hug the kids when they are upset? High five them as they walk into the room?"
Over the last fourteen years working as a consultant on social emotional learning (SEL), I've been asked similar questions many times. The concept of SEL can seem very vague and obscure. What exactly does it look like and sound like in practice? How does an educator "do" SEL?
Social emotional learning is more than creating relationships with your students.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified five SEL competencies. The first two components, self-awareness and self-management, involve developing intrapersonal skills. By developing an awareness of our emotions and strengths, we can build a more accurate self-perception and trust in our ability to achieve success. In turn, this allows us to better manage our impulses and stressors, thus becoming more motivated and disciplined to achieve our goals.
The next two SEL components focus on social awareness and relationship skills, the interpersonal competencies. The fifth competency, responsible decision-making, connects the first four together. By growing in our self-awareness and self-management skills, we expand our ability to become socially aware and build healthy relationships. As we understand others' perspectives and appreciate the uniqueness they contribute, we treat them with respect and demonstrate empathy for their journey. We engage socially using appropriate communication methods to build healthy relationships and sustain these relationships via teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. When our students feel emotionally and physically safe in our classrooms, they feel included, valued, and accepted.
When we understand that "doing" SEL goes beyond building relationships with students, we can begin to ensure that all SEL is integrated throughout our teaching and learning environments. We pay particular attention to ensure the five competencies are reflected in our social interactions with students and colleagues, visually displayed throughout our schools and classrooms, woven into all content areas within the curriculum, and explicitly integrated into instruction via debriefing social interactions and creating purposeful partnerships.
By making a personal commitment to authentically and transparently growing in the five competencies, SEL becomes part of who we are and what we do. Social emotional learning becomes a comprehensive and sustainable part of the culture of our educational communities.
My SEL Institute (via Eduplanet21) provides a series of five online courses that provide step-by-step assistance as you examine each of the five competencies and determine how to integrate them into your learning communities. Through activities that encourage self-reflection and conversations with colleagues, you will develop SEL activities, ideas, and strategies that work specifically for you, your students, and your context.