Hey there! As someone who has worked in education for a while now, I have seen first hand the importance of social emotional development in children. Kids who have a solid foundation in things like empathy, cooperation, and self-awareness tend to have better academic outcomes and are more successful in their personal lives. But can this type of development be taught explicitly in schools?
The short answer is “yes, but…”. Let me explain. Social emotional learning (SEL) has been a buzzword in education circles for quite some time now. It involves teaching students skills that will help them navigate the world around them. These skills include things like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
The first “but” is that explicitly teaching these skills is not enough. SEL needs to be woven into the fabric of the school environment. Teachers and administrators need to model these behaviors and attitudes, and the culture of the school should prioritize things like empathy, kindness, and cooperation. Students need to see that these skills are valued by the adults in their lives, and that they are expected to exhibit them as well.
The second “but” is that timing matters. Younger students are naturally more receptive to SEL instruction, and it can be woven into things like read-alouds, morning meetings, and other routines. Older students may require a more intentional approach, with dedicated time set aside for SEL instruction.
So what does this explicit instruction look like? Here are some examples:
Teaching students to identify their emotions and strategies to help regulate them. This might involve activities like drawing emotion faces, talking about the physiological effects of different emotions, or practicing deep breathing exercises to calm down.
Role-playing and practicing social skills like empathy, listening, and conflict resolution. This might involve structured activities like the “circle of trust”, where students take turns sharing something important to them while the others listen quietly and respectfully.
Mindfulness activities like meditation, yoga, or tai chi. These practices have been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, and can help students learn to be more present in their daily lives.
Community service projects. Giving back to the community can help students feel more connected to their school and their fellow students, and can provide a sense of purpose and meaning.
So in summary, yes, social emotional development can be taught explicitly in schools. But it’s important to remember that it’s not enough to simply have a dedicated SEL class or lesson. SEL needs to be woven into the culture of the school, modeled by adults, and prioritized as part of the overall curriculum. And, as with any type of education, timing matters. Younger students may need a more implicit approach, while older students may require more dedicated time and intentional instruction.
But here’s the thing: social emotional development is not just something that’s nice to have. It’s essential for students to be successful in all aspects of their lives. By explicitly teaching these skills, we can help ensure that students are equipped to navigate the world around them with empathy, resilience, and a sense of purpose. And honestly, there’s nothing more important than that.
I don’t want to forget to recommend you to read about YEAR OLDS IN BUILDING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH GRANDPARENTS? .