This article is part of a 5-part series of insights from Stephanie Parry, Newark Trust’s Director of P-12 strategy on the value of social emotional learning (SEL).

While the improvement of student competencies is central to the case for SEL in schools, learning cannot happen without adults. The pandemic highlighted the need for schools and districts to make educator well-being a priority and create environments in which both students and staff feel safe and supported. SEL is a tool to help educators improve their own social emotional skills, which in turn can lead to positive outcomes for the students they teach.

SEL for adults includes navigating emotions and challenges, healthy conflict resolution, showing empathy, and exercising self-control. When caregivers and adult leaders exercise these qualities, learners can model their own emotional growth after the positive role models they see. Educators need to develop their own social emotional skills in order to effectively teach these traits to students.

Research shows that there is an association between teachers who report higher levels of well-being and their level of engagement in SEL practices. Lessons from CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative show agreement from leaders in the field that student-focused programs must go hand-in-hand with holistic professional development such as on-going opportunities for educators to sharpen their own SEL skills, develop community, and receive individual and team coaching.

Others point out that by focusing on adult competencies and mindsets, schools will be better equipped to address equity issues that prevent students of color from fully benefiting from SEL programs. The well-being of students and educators go hand-in-hand in creating a healthy learning environment that will allow kids to reach their full potential.

It is critical for both learners and teachers to feel safe and supported in the classroom. Educators play a vital role in modeling positive traits for students to learn from, and it is vital that their well-being is supported, too. Overall, SEL plays a large role in promoting healthy traits for both kids and adults, and will lead to fruitful experiences for all.