What is Social Emotional Learning?
There are many buzzwords in education today, common core, instructional scaffolding, cooperative learning, higher order thinking, the list goes on and on. Some terms are more than just jargon, they represent cutting-edge tools and methods that are transforming classrooms and students.
Of those, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is one worth familiarizing yourself with. SEL is the cornerstone of the academic philosophy at The Village School of Naples. So what is SEL, exactly? Social Emotional Learning is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain healthy relationships and make responsible decisions*.
How does that look in real life? Well, when we made the decision to send our children, Carly and Cooper, to The Village School of Naples, we did so confidently in the knowledge that they would experience a classroom where they are known, nurtured and loved.
The process of SEL is based on the five crucial competencies of Emotional Intelligence (EI) which create strong, healthy and effective relationships. These competencies or skills are self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, empathy, and effective relationships. Let’s take a quick look at each of those...
Self-awareness: Being self-aware involves identifying and accepting your own feelings and having a clear understanding of what you are capable of when to ask for help, and what kinds of events trigger you emotionally.
Self-management: Being able to control emotional outbursts, and avoid panic, self-pity and volatile conversations are learned skills that require practice.
Motivation: Being able to derive motivation from personal joy, curiosity and the satisfaction of being productive is far more rewarding than that of being motivated by money or status.
Empathy: The skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding in a genuine and appropriate way are vital to establish and maintain healthy relationships.
Social skills: Finding common ground and extending empathy to others while acknowledging and understanding your own needs and emotions is the definition of good social skills.
Through SEL, all children at TVS practice the skills associated with Emotional Intelligence. They learn to breathe and take time to recognize the emotions they are feeling. They are given ways to cooperate with others while dealing with strong emotions. SEL illustrates how their actions can help them achieve goals and reminds them to stop and think about a situation before acting. Through SEL, children are taught to identify the emotions of others - to empathize and show compassion for others no matter who they are, or what their background is. These approaches build relationships and make life easier overall.
While most parents will agree these skills are essential, how they are implemented in the classroom might not be clear. This is where another key educational term can be introduced - Responsive Classroom.
A Responsive Classroom approach focuses on the evidence-based relationship between academic success and SEL. The responsive classroom empowers educators to create learning tasks that are interactive, challenging, purposeful and connected to students’ interests. Moreover, the classroom fosters a sense of belonging, significance and emotional safety so students feel comfortable taking risks and working with peers. In all our classes, children respond to the calm, orderly environment that begins with a Morning Meeting. This meeting is an engaging way to start each day, build community and set kids up for success emotionally and academically. Each lower school class gathers in a circle for 20-30 minutes each day to greet each other by name, share stories where listeners give empathetic comments or ask questions, engage in a lively team-building activity, then read a short message that focuses on the work they will do that day. Activities like these create a cohesive, responsive classroom and support SEL.
At TVS, we agree that the SEL approach is arguably as important as mastering reading and mathematics skills, and is most effective when taught in early education and continues throughout high school. Studies show that students who are exposed to SEL do better academically, are less disruptive in class, and less likely to be bullied or feel left out. They are also are twice as likely to graduate from high school, earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25. SEL makes a big difference in the life of students.
Our teachers have been trained in SEL, and the methods of this avant-garde style of learning are highlighted in the faculty’s ongoing professional development. We are proud of our commitment to preparing every TVS student to succeed not only academically, but socially, emotionally, and spiritually, in every area of their lives.
*Elias, et al. (1997). Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators