During my maternity leave I am finishing a diploma in Special Education. My last course is on Social and Emotional learning or SEL.
What is SEL?
SEL is becoming more of a concern in our education system, and is threaded throughout B.C’s new curriculum under the core competency of “Personal and Social”.
As part of this course, we are learning about the importance of teaching and modelling things like self regulation and self awareness, but also how to “sell” these ideas to other teachers and administrators.
What would you consider the most important parts of teaching? Is it knowing the content of your course, or how to work with groups of teenagers and manage a classroom? In the work world, will our students do better if they can read a situation and manage their emotions, or know how to perform a task? Social Emotional Learning is this. It supports student autonomy and gives our students the skills to manage their behavior, make responsible decisions, have good relationships with other people, and be socially aware. If we can help our students in these areas we are building a better learning environment for our students, and working environment for our colleagues. Long term we are equipping kids with the tools to lead a fulfilling and productive life whatever they choose to do with it.
Social Emotional Learning core competencies for students
Explaining SEL to Students
I tried to think of a concise summary of each of the five competencies. I thought that this would be helpful for older students to remember.
For self awareness, I thought of a mirror. You “see” yourself – not just the outside, but also your thoughts and feelings on the inside. When you can accurately “see” yourself you can assess your strengths and limitations and make better decisions.
For self-manage, I saw traffic lights. You are able to make decisions whether to stop what you are doing, go forward and continue, or “yield” and take some time to think and reflect before acting.
For social awareness, I saw a mirror with other people in it. You are “seeing” others in a reflective way and thinking about their perspective and experiences.
For relationship skills, I saw friends. Being a friend includes communicating, actively listening, cooperating, supporting and offering help when needed.
Finally, for responsible decision making, I saw a brain weighing options. I wrote “make a good choice for everyone” to mean not only the individual, but also other people. For this competency you are looking to make a choice that will be best for the well being of the self and others. You are weighing the potential consequences and considerations of your choices.
SEL for Adults and Teachers
Programs like Mind Up and resources like Mindset Works are not only for students. Teachers, families, and other adults can also utilize mindfulness, and benefit from reflection on how they think and engage with their world. Although I started this course to help my students, it has also begun to benefit me!