As we reflect on the past school year and prepare for next year, it is helpful to evaluate the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practices and how they served to shape the culture of learning and development in your schools.
According to the CASEL’s (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning ) framework, “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions." SEL “advances educational equity [and] can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”
SEL practices are essential to help teachers and leaders understand their students' needs and support their overall development. When SEL is prioritized and strategies are rooted in a district’s vision and mission, schools become a breeding ground for transformational change. We see positive shifts in curriculum, instruction, and the overall school and community culture.
At Education Elements, we have worked with school districts to leverage the SEL framework. In Spring 2023, we worked with the Manchester-Shortsville Central School District (New York) to support their work with SEL. We first conducted inventory of the team and supported them in defining district vision for SEL. A primary focus of their vision was to “create a supportive and equitable environment by building healthy, trusting relationships…so that all students, staff, and families feel psychologically safe, respected, and empowered.” This vision allowed the district to identify and reflect on the SEL focus areas at each grade level while drawing on connections between practices that already existed within classrooms and the greater school community. We then guided exploration of SEL strategies for practice and application that leaders were able to leverage to sustain SEL within the district.
As you think about your SEL strategies, consider what worked well and what you can improve for next year. These questions, guided by the five competencies of the CASEL framework: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making Skills, are a useful starting point for conversations that can deepen SEL practices within schools.
Self-Awareness: Are students aware of their identity? Do they feel affirmed and supported?
Self-Management: In what ways do we encourage student agency? How do we support our students inside and outside of the classroom?
Social Awareness: How do we prioritize inclusivity and diversity within our school community?
Relationship Skills: How can we better prepare students for the ever- changing world? Do students feel valued?
Responsible Decision-Making Skills: What opportunities can we create to improve the learning experience for our students?
At its core, SEL is a transformative approach that empowers educators to create engaging and healthy learning environments. By nurturing emotional intelligence, promoting academic achievement, fostering healthy relationships, and supporting mental well-being, SEL lays the foundation for students to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.
Continuously reflecting on the integration of SEL within your school is essential to ensure that your team continues to build on their knowledge and understanding of what is working. We increasingly understand that district wide SEL strategies help students thrive academically, build stronger relationships, and experience healthier and happier lives. Strong SEL skills are the key to building a brighter and more compassionate future for the next generation of leaders.