Over time, we have learned that impactful education is about far more than academics alone. While the cognitive, language, physical and social emotional aspects of development are vital, it is social-emotional development that sets the framework for learning both inside and outside the classroom.  What really matters is that the right SEL curriculum teaches to the ‘Whole Child’ and it can be easily adapted into a school’s culture.

As many students transitioned back into the classroom this Fall, social-emotional learning took on a whole new level of importance. Having the tools to recognize, express and manage feelings, respectfully communicate, and the need to be flexible are all valuable tools for success – both inside and outside the classroom. 

We know that in order to be learning ready within the classroom, students first need to be emotionally regulated. To collaborate and work well with others, students need to be able to communicate clearly with their words.  They also need to be able to interpret non-verbal communication, such as reading the facial expressions and body language of others. Additionally, the ability to engage in perspective taking and empathy play a huge role in building relationships, problem solving and working collaboratively.

Just as academics helps prepare students for being functional adults, SEL provides students with the tools needed for connecting and successfully interacting and thriving throughout life.  One early study notes that “Social and Emotional Learning can improve positive attitudes towards self and others, and increase students’ academic performance by 11 points.” (Durak et al, 2011)A plethora of resources of social emotional learning abounds, from books, curriculum, Teachers Pay Teachers resources, and more. How do we know what really matters when investing in social-emotional learning for your school?

Use CASEL as a Starting Point

What is the gold standard for SEL in Schools? Well, CASEL – Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, is the respected authority on SEL in schools. According their website, “CASEL is committed to advancing equity and excellence in education through social and emotional learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning defined SEL more than two decades ago. Today, we support state, districts and schools nationwide and convene leading thinkers to ensure SEL is a priority in every school nationwide.” You can learn more about CASEL www.casel.org

According to CASEL, a high-quality and impactful SEL Curriculum has the following components:

  • It is Research Based, CASEL-Aligned, Interactive, Inclusive (involves teachers, parents and students, and Cohesive (uses common language.)
  • Instruction includes five social competencies: self- awareness, self- management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
  • Social competences are woven in throughout the school day (academics, lunch, recess, extra-curricular activities, incorporated into school policies and communities.) 

What are the Advantages of Utilizing an SEL Curriculum?

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Pediatrician and Surgeon General of California is a strong advocate for SEL . Click here to learn more about the impact of SEL on brain development and the importance of incorporating SEL throughout the school day.

These days, teachers are stretched to the breaking point. While SEL is vital to teaching to the whole child, teachers cannot be expected to search for resources and somehow fit instruction into an already overcrowded school day.  However, using a CASEL- aligned SEL curriculum saves time by giving teachers what they need in a “one stop shop”. What really matters is that a SEL curriculum provides a ‘toolbox’ for teachers and administrators. Their ‘toolbox’ should include:

  • Pro-active and intentional strategies to teach social tools
  • Social coaching (holding up a proverbial mirror for students to see how they are seen and hear by others; reminding students to use their social tools in the moment)
  • Engaging ways to practice for students for generalizing of skills

When teachers, or social coaches, utilize a high quality, SEL curriculum  to directly teach prosocial skills, the following benefits are seen in students:                   

  • Enhanced Social Awareness
  • Improved ability to understand SEL code of conduct (social expectations)                                                                   
  • Students are better able to stay focused and be ready to learn                                     
  • Common language is woven into the school day; providing consistency and clarity between staff and students
  • Students are encouraged to use their social tools independently, versus requiring teacher involvement
  • Empowered students use their tools to stay in the classroom
  • Decreased amount of support needed by guidance counselor or administrators

An SEL curriculum is in investment in your students, teachers and families of your school. Knowing what really matters can help you choose a curriculum that will improve your students use of pro-social skills, thereby improving your teachers’ ability to focus on teaching – rather than behavior management – and create a positive school climate. 

To learn more about the Social Bridges ToolBox Curriculum, click here.

Written by Carol Miller, LCSW

Edited by Danielle Bentz, MA

Photo courtesy of Social Bridges.