Social Emotional Learning & the Role Schools Play

“You can’t teach what you don’t know. And you can’t lead where you don’t go.”

– Jesse Jackson

The Role Schools Play in Social Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning is essential to every child’s education and future success.

Educational environments, especially preschool through high school, play a critical role in supporting children’s social and emotional development. Children’s social emotional growth is enhanced when educators partner with families and communities.

Effectively implemented SEL programs positively affect students’ achievement in school through:

  • Improving academic performance
  • Decreasing instances of bullying
  • Reducing dropout rate
  • Building character

Core to a robust learning environment is the creation of a classroom where everyone feels seen and valued. Children struggle with learning when they feel frightened or threatened. Dealing with those scary feelings using masking, bluffing, clowning, or shutting down leaves little space for learning academic skills.

Adding SEL into the everyday curriculum elevates the learning for all students, as many of the coping strategies kids bring to manage their negative feelings are immensely distracting to their peers.

At its heart, social emotional learning involves the social dynamics of a group. Teaching and modeling explicit lessons on managing emotion, self-regulation, and strategies for problem-solving and compromise all lead to more peaceful classroom environments. We have all been in otherwise good situations derailed by interpersonal conflicts. Having a formal framework of positive discipline and a shared vocabulary from SEL lessons allows those conflicts to be resolved more efficiently and satisfactorily for all involved.

A keystone to learning is the social emotional connection between students and teachers.

Research shows that educators with developed social and emotional competencies have more constructive and trust-based relationships with students and colleagues. These instructors are also better equipped to create enriching classroom environments that profoundly impact student learning.

As Jesse Jackson noted, “You can’t teach what you don’t know. And you can’t lead where you don’t go.”

Educators are essential to effectively integrating comprehensive social, emotional, and academic development in schools. At Mulberry, we realize how vital it is to support teachers’ social and emotional well-being to ensure they can model social emotional skills and meet their students’ wide-ranging social, emotional, and academic needs.

Previously, we asked our teachers how they wanted to feel at school, and they answered loud and clear. A few top hoped-for emotions were happy, inspired, valued, supported, effective, and respected.

“As a team, we took the Art & Science of Awe workshop a few years ago. There are six keys to well-being:  Altruism, awe, bridging differences, compassion, diversity, and empathy. These KEYS are what matters to and support teachers through individual, personal, and professional ups and downs. Our teachers can see and feel their efficacy by receiving training in these areas. They feel connected to each other and the school’s mission, vision, and purpose. They see the SEL skills and “ways of being” grow in our students,” explains Kara Riordan, Head of Mulberry School.

At Mulberry School, our teachers are also lifelong learners. Just as we encourage our students to explore subjects they find intriguing, each educational team member pursues further training in identified areas of interest and development. These can range from receiving certification in a literacy-based instructional program such as the Orton Gillingham framework to multiple math conferences.

As an educational community, we collectively explore new ways to improve student learning and learning experience. Learning and the Brain hosts many annual conferences, seminars, and workshops, including Teaching Social Brains or the Executive Function workshop that expand our educators’ ability to show up and effectively serve our student community.

Faculty and staff participate in group training during in-service days. Often, these training sessions are specific to Mulberry’s continued professional development in Positive Discipline. We also focus on team building by first sharing about ourselves, always with inclusion and accessibility in mind.

What are the Benefits of SEL?

According to CASEL, SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships. SEL establishes learning environments and experiences featuring collaborative relationships based on trust, meaningful instruction and curriculum, and continuing evaluation. SEL 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.

Students come from diverse social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Every child has a unique motivation for engaging in learning, behaving positively, and performing academically.

Social emotional learning creates a foundation for safe and positive education. SEL reinforces students’ ability to succeed in school and all areas of life.

CASEL has identified five social emotional core competencies:

Cultivating a greater understanding of one’s emotions, goals, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. Recognizing the link between thoughts and actions helps make decisions with greater insight.

Practicing impulse control and evaluating performance in certain situations.

Build and maintain healthy relationships. This involves understanding and empathizing with others, including those of different races, genders, cultures, ages, and religions.

Teaches children how to act concerning social norms. Fundamental components are communication, cooperation, listening, managing conflict, and understanding emotions.

Think about their goals, social factors, and self-understanding when making constructive choices to foster an understanding of cause-and-effect and the consequences of actions.

Additional benefits of SEL include:

  • More positive attitudes toward oneself and others
  • Heightened self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, and connection
  • Commitment to school
  • An enhanced sense of purpose
  • More positive social behaviors
  • Improved relationships with peers and adults
  • Reduced behavior issues and risk-taking behavior
  • Decreased emotional distress
  • Improved test scores, grades, and attendance

And, that’s not all.

Students with enhanced social emotional competence exhibit an increased likelihood of high school graduation and enthusiasm for postsecondary education. They enter adulthood with greater career success, positive family and work relationships, better mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged citizenship.

(e.g., Hawkins, Kosterman, Catalano, Hill, & Abbott, 2008; Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015)

Learn more about Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

Private School Los Gatos

“Students are encouraged to explore, research, and study areas of interest. At a recent parent meeting several alums also attended, we prompted attendees to think of a time they’d gotten lost in learning more; what was the topic? One of our alums, now a senior in high school, explored the catastrophic side of nuclear energy. He is entering college as a Nuclear Engineering major.”

– Kara Riordan, Head of School –