Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Day is an excellent time to reflect on the impact that social and emotional skills have on learners of all ages. While education experts know its value, many parents, caregivers, and adults are unaware of the benefits SEL holds and how it impacts students.
It is a mystery how something so beneficial to kids and adults alike can be widely misunderstood and used for political manipulation. Therefore, for SEL Day, the Trust is highlighting what SEL (really) is and how it benefits students from all walks of life.
SEL is a method of teaching children of all ages how to identify and manage their emotions, empathize with others, be aware of themselves, and live more fully in the present moment. In the classroom, SEL helps children work well with others, boosts their test scores, elevates grades, and promotes on-time graduation. Outside of the classroom, SEL increases self-awareness, confidence, problem-solving, and helps kids cope with emotional stress.
When SEL is taught in schools and homes, the results are powerful.
In a recent article by K-12 Dive, the Trust’s Director of K-12 Strategy Stephanie Parry outlines how SEL leads to a variety of positive outcomes for children. Parry reveals evidence the shows, “Social and emotional learning has been shown to improve academic performance by as much as 11 percentile points and are strongly associated with positive youth outcomes in the areas of education, employment, criminal activity, and mental health.” The Newark Board of Education also emphasizes the profound impact of SEL, stating that, “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.”
SEL plays a critical role in promoting student success and equity in the classroom
Schools and classrooms here in Newark and across the country are increasingly multicultural and made up of students from diverse social and economic backgrounds. An inclusive SEL framework can provide a foundation for comprehensive learning, help kids understand the perspectives of others, and ultimately enhance students’ ability to achieve in every aspect of life. When teachers are effectively trained on SEL, students are able to practice and hone these skills through classroom activities that promote reflection on the various identities and the diversity that they each bring, and encourage students to voice their needs so that they can be embraced in the educational process. SEL alone will not solve the deep-rooted inequities in the education system, but it is a meaningful start to building cross-cultural relationships and a more inclusive school community, which is critical for nation and world betterment.
SEL promotes positive behavior
Research consistently shows that students’ participation in SEL programs leads to improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and schools. SEL also encourages students to communicate clearly, actively listen to adults and their peers, and problem solve. A 2021 report published by Early Intervention Foundation found that universal SEL interventions enhance youth’s social and emotional skills and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The traits learned from SEL framework can lead to lifelong positive outcomes for students and effectively guide them through life’s demanding challenges and experiences. SEL not only promotes academic achievement but provides students with the skills they need to contribute to their overall well-being.
SEL improves self-awareness and confidence
Self-confidence is an integral part of development and growth in children. When students are taught to trust in themselves and their decisions, it fosters independence and an awareness of how their actions and decisions impact others. SEL helps students learn to be reflective, be receptive to feedback, and develop a unique sense of self. It also promotes self-awareness through assisting learners in identifying their emotions, recognizing their strengths and how to build on them, and believing in their own ability to reach their goals. Students who believe in themselves and their abilities ultimately strive for more, achieve more, and contribute in meaningful ways to their communities and supportive learning communities.
It’s critical that all adults know what social and emotional learning is and promote the practice, as students of all ages greatly benefit from the inclusion of SEL in their education. Although the skills learned from SEL may seem intuitive, it needs to be taught and integrated into school and home life to take root. Kids learn best from observation, experience, and direct guidance. Data also shows that parents and educators both believe that SEL is necessary – based on findings from a 2021 report published by McGraw-Hill, 93% of teachers want a greater focus on SEL in schools, and 62% of parents feel teaching SEL is very important, compared to 55% three years ago.
For SEL to reach its full potential, it must start at home with caregivers and families, then expand into the school district, classrooms, and community. When caregivers and school leaders come together to make SEL a priority, we have the potential to enact the meaningful and long-lasting change for student outcomes that every child deserves.