The Science of Relationships

Social Emotional Learning for Teachers - Podcast

Join Megan Marcus and Kelley Munger as guests on the Getting Smart Podcast with Rebecca Midles to discuss SEL for Teachers and Relationship Building in classrooms, schools, and districts.

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Rebecca Midles sits down with our very own Megan Marcus and Kelley Munger to discuss Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and relationship building. They also penned a great article on their site that you can see here.

In the podcast, they reflect on the distinctions between whole-child, SEL, and trauma-informed practices. “SEL focuses more on behaviors and skills and trauma broadens SEL by bringing in the story or history that a student/teacher brings into the classroom."

You can watch the video and read the full transcript below, or check out all the great episodes on the Getting Smart Podcast page, but our favorite quote from Dr. Kelley Munger is "We can't provide direct instruction or skills training to a child who doesn't feel safe, and we can't ask a teacher to teach SEL skills when they themselves are completely overwhelmed and stressed out in the classroom."

We can't provide direct instruction or skills training to a child who doesn't feel safe, and we can't ask a teacher to teach Social Emotional Learning skills when they themselves are completely overwhelmed and stressed out in the classroom.

Dr. Kelley Munger

Partner, FuelEd

What's the difference between social-emotional learning and trauma-informed practices?

First off, social and emotional learning has generally focused a lot on behaviors and skills. There are, without a doubt, a number of critical social and emotional skills that kids and teachers alike need to learn in order to flourish in life. But where trauma-informed learning and conversations about the whole child differ is that they bring in an individual's personal story and history. The science of relationships teaches us that there is a critical link between an individual's attachment history and their trauma history. In a classroom that looks like:

"What has a student has gone through?" and

"What has a teacher or school leader has gone through".

There's a critical connection between that story and the social and emotional development and skills that that teacher or student brings into a classroom. So when we make that leap to the whole child or whole person, we realize that

we can't simply provide direct instruction skills, training to a child who doesn't feel safe and we can't ask a teacher to teach SEL skills when they themselves are completely overwhelmed or stressed out in the classroom.

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Through the work of brilliant people like Dr. Cozolino and Dan Siegel, who is a really important figure in this field, we have learned that making sense of that trauma history, being truly trauma-informed, involves telling a story and then receiving empathy for that story. That's a relational experience.

That's why at FuelEd we take the whole educator perspective. Hearing, understanding, and communicating an understanding of that trauma story is like an enzyme or like yeast in bread - you've got to have it in order to make those social-emotional skills rise and grow.

At the core of this work is understanding our attachment stories - the stories of how we received early care - how we learned who we were. If we learned that we're special, that we belong to someone, to a parent, to a family, or not. This story is so important in setting our early relationship patterns and plays out in everyday life in how we relate to one another.

Think of how an infant engages with the world typically every day. When that infant cries, the parent sees the need, meets the need, and that child moves from distress to calm. Right? This happens a million times a day.

With an infant, that process is called co-regulation and it's foundational to developing self-regulation, a sense of competence, and a sense of self-esteem. We might call it a sense of feeling and we know it is critical to being able to learn, grow, and explore. If, however, there were disruptions, gaps, or unmet needs in that early cycle of co-regulation, that also becomes a story embedded in the biology of that child and will affect the ways in which that child learns and interacts in the world - and certainly how that child interacts with others.

The really cool thing about attachment is that it can change across a person's lifespan, so part of our work at FuelEd is to help educators really experience secure attachment, even if they didn't have that as a child - to have that experience of telling that attachment story, making sense of it, creating coherence in the brain, integrating the story, and receiving empathy. We see it almost as like a bank transfer that can move a story of loss or lack of safety into an experience of relational trust and safety.

FuelEd hosts free webinars that center on the experiences and needs of educators.


About the author

Megan Marcus

Partner & Founder - San Diego CA

Megan holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and Master’s degrees in Psychology from Pepperdine University. While at Pepperdine, Megan studied under Dr. Louis Cozolino and served as the lead researcher for his book, The Social Neuroscience of Education. Megan then completed a Master’s degree in Education, Policy, and Management from Harvard University, where she explored how to translate the elements of a therapists’ professional training to an educational setting. Her research with Dr. Cozolino and studies at Harvard combined to form the core beliefs that became the bedrock of FuelEd. Since 2012, Megan has passionately served the educational community as FuelEd’s Founder.

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