What is Social-Emotional Learning and Why is this So Important?

When I spoke at this year’s National CHADD conference this past week, my presentation was Teaching Grit, Perseverance, and Frustration Tolerance to Children and Adolescents.  I can confidently say that this topic was very important and the lecture was very well received.  At the core of my presentation was the notion that we MUST place more emphasis on the process side of learning in our classroom teaching as well as our parenting.

Social-Emotional Learning is the term used to describe the process children and adults go through to develop the skills to manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, and make responsible decisions.  It focuses on the how more than the what.  As you might recognize, it’s related to the conversations we have around developing Executive Function Skills.

When I work with parents and educators, the number one issue we all seem to face is the scarcity of time.  “How can I spend time teaching things like how learning happens and how to manage stress if it’s going to take away from classroom curriculum lessons?”  “My child has so much homework we don’t have time to slow down and focus on planning and goal setting.”

Well, the research is quite clear: A review of more than 200 studies covering nearly 300,000 students found that simple lessons taught by teachers covering Social/Emotional learning topics resulted in substantial student academic gains.  The implication: the time we spend focusing on helping children learn to manage their emotions, set goals, and learn to make good decisions actually will improve their overall learning.  I will add that an additional key factor here is also helping kids (and adults) learn to manage stress. This means adding things like yoga and mindfulness into the classroom and home life (which need only take a few minutes a day to be impactful).

I want to be clear, these are not concepts that can be simply taught in one sitting to be effective.  They need to be supported and nurtured through the culture we create both at home and in school.

So, take a few moments each day – work it into the class time and home time.  I have plenty of resources for both parents and educators through my Professional Development and Parent Presentation offerings to help you all learn the how for incorporating Social Emotional Learning into our children’s daily lives.

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