“Social Emotional Learning” or SEL is now an integral part of many district and school initiatives to increase student wellbeing and academic performance. Whether you’re a teacher trying to figure out how to implement it in your classroom, a school leader working to improve school climate, or a district leader looking into how you can reduce student discipline—like many educators you are focusing on SEL. But what is the key to successful SEL?
In this article, we will define what SEL is, discuss the benefits of SEL, and provide tips on how to implement it. Let’s get started!
What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning has identified five competencies that humans need in order to thrive in their social and emotional lives: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
In short, SEL is considered the pathway by which students gain competence in these five areas. The hope is that through experiences at school and home that promote these skills, young people will become adults who know themselves, regulate themselves, can understand and provide empathy to others, and make healthy life decisions. The benefits of such skills include improved mental and physical health, increased ability to build strong, positive relationships, and greater professional and personal success in life. Every adult and educator wants to see the children in their lives develop these social and emotional competencies.
But how exactly are these competencies developed in students and what part do teachers play in promoting them? Neuroscience provides the answer to this question. Before a child is born, their brain is comparatively underdeveloped, but after they are born, it is the bond between a child and an adult that shapes all brain development and sets the stage for all future learning.
In fact, each and every one of these five social and emotional competencies emerge for children in the context of consistent experiences with secure relationships with a healthy caregiver, where nurture, structure, and challenges are present.
Focusing on the power of secure relationships to support SEL in schools and classrooms
This is why FuelEd’s professional learning equips educators with the knowledge, skills and resources to build the secure relationships that are foundational to social emotional learning. Our approach is founded on two core concepts:
Learn more about FuelEd's transformative professional learning for educatorsVIEW PROGRAMS
Embedding the CASEL 5 skills into educator professional learning
Infusing social and emotional learning throughout a classroom, school, or district, starts with professional learning opportunities for the adults in the system—teachers, instructional coaches, assistant principals, district leaders, etc. Here’s how FuelEd has applied the CASEL 5 framework and embedded it into our educator SEL professional learning:
Schedule a call to discuss how we can help you embed the CASEL 5 skills into your staff developmentSCHEDULE A CALL
Fueling schools and districts with the power of relationships
Humans are a highly social. We look to one another for safety and identity, as well as how to treat one another. What is experienced in our relationships is the most powerful education we receive. So, when we provide opportunities for educators to experience feeling seen, empowered, and supported to develop their own self-awareness and well-being, it has a cascading impact on students. This is the key to success of SEL initiatives.
What is experienced in our relationships is the most powerful education we receive.
Understanding the science of relationships
Like students, adults learn through secure relationships and need learning experiences that are safe and scaffolded. An teacher or leaders professional growth depends on educators’ access to emotionally safe relationships. Do your educators have those relationships on campus? If they don't, their ability to grow their own social and emotional competencies will be limited.
The science of relationships is at the core of FuelEd professional learning. Our programming is a uniquely rooted in attachment theory—the most widely validated field of study on human relationships—and interpersonal neurobiology, the brain science that backs it up. We’ve translated research-based best practices from counseling psychology into practical and applicable relationship skills training for educators.
For example, our Whole Educator Collective builds educator understanding of the attachment theory, Participants explore how secure relationships support the healing of trauma, and are the key to all learning, exploration and growth. A skilled facilitator shepherds educators through a scaffolded learning experience that builds their self-awareness and develops their essential social-emotional skills. Teachers and leaders practice and develop their own SEL. The program is transformative, improving educator well-being and ability to lead and teach others effectively.
Other programs focus on developing, embedding and sustaining empathic communications skills in districts and schools. For example, we have our Empathy Circles, where groups of educators join together to share emotions, needs, challenges, and frustrations in a space where they receive reliable validation, care, and support. This experience of both witnessing and receiving secure care is a powerful way to learn new relationship skills.
Together these programs have the potential to create a virtuous cycle, where a stronger school climate supports educator SEL growth and learning, and educators with stronger social and emotional competencies create communities of collective care that enhance the school climate.
When there are relationship-driven school culture practices, and educators who have master evidence-based relationship skills, it becomes much easier to implement student-facing SEL with consistency and integrity. Perhaps more importantly, when we begin by providing all of the adults in the building with SEL training, we give them the opportunity to reflect on and resolve their own trauma experiences and grow socially and emotionally in relationship. The result is they go on to build positive and empathic relationships with every student accelerating social emotional learning in the classroom.
Learn more about the science of relationships in this introductory videoWATCH VIDEO
In conclusion, think of it this way. You’re playing “Would you rather?” with your students, and you ask:
We think most students would easily choose to be supported by a safe and secure educator. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a false dichotomy of student and adult SEL because they are inextricably linked. We can best support student SEL by first, supporting educator SEL. Successful SEL comes from pairing student interventions with the support and development of educator social emotional competencies and relationship skills.
At FuelEd, we are here to help you do just that!
In order to see each other, in all our complexity, we must first work to see ourselves more clearly.
FuelEd Partners Megan Marcus Dr. Kelley Munger speak with Matthew Bennett of the Trauma Informed Lens podcast about how educators can serve as secure attachment figures and the power of providing simple and safe places for educators within school culture to receive healing from their own trauma.