Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We Can't Ignore Social Emotional Literacy

With the spotlight shining brightly on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, "rigorous" curricula and their associated high-stakes assessments, we as educators run the risk of ignoring other critical skills for learning, problem solving and communicating - the skill set encompassed in social/emotional literacy (SEL). A failure to  address SEL adequately will have devastating effects on the students in our classrooms and our communities at large.

The world we live in seems increasingly narcissistic. As educators we have a responsibility to make students "college and career ready", but we also have an equally (or perhaps an even more) important task, and that is to model and teach responsible citizenship. The attitudes and actions that lead to responsible citizenship, and away from narcissism, are rooted in SEL. These are in fact the skills that will lead to success throughout life.

What Can We Do?

Actively teaching our students empathy is imperative.  Being able to understand what another person is feeling helps students to build and maintain positive relationships with others. We need to cultivate a culture of empathy in our classrooms by teaching students how to identify/label emotions in themselves, recognize them in others, and share feelings in a non-judgemental way.

Closely tied to empathy is effective communication.  Effective communication lies in the ability to understand another person or group's perspective, to be an active listener and then to be able to articulate one's own thoughts, ideas and/or needs. We need to provide students with ample opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue and to practice negotiation and compromise.

Cultivating a sense of appreciation is necessary. We need students to focus on what is going well, and that the things that are going well, more often than not, outweigh the things that are not.  Recalling one good thing that has happened in the past 24 hours is a great way to start the day on a positive note. When we are in a positive state of mind, our brain is more receptive to information and ready to learn.

We must remain dedicated to teaching the attitudes and actions that lead to responsible citizenship.  The benefits of doing so are in the creation of a positive classroom and school climate, an increase in pro-social behavior and academic achievement.

Additional SEL Resources:

Prelude2Learn -
Tribes Learning Community -
Project Happiness -
 Second Step -

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