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What is Social Emotional Learning and Why is it Important

It goes without saying that the primary purpose for education is learning. Assignments, quizzes, and tests are given to measure one's ability to maintain information, but what about ones ability to form and maintain relationships?

It goes without saying that the primary purpose for education is learning. Assignments, quizzes, and tests are given to measure how much information students have retained throughout the school year. For this reason, one’s ability to regurgitate and recite information is developed from an early age. But what about one’s ability to understand and empathize with others? What about one’s ability to build and successfully maintain numerous relationships? This is where social emotional learning comes in. Social emotional learning is the development of one’s ability to acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes that impact their ability to manage their emotions, behavior, relationships, and set collective as well as personal goals and achieve them. Social emotional learning strives to assist children in showing empathy and making responsible and caring decisions despite the diversity present in the classroom, such as cultural backgrounds, race, ethnicity, learning abilities, and beliefs. Social emotional learning is powerful and influential as it advances equity and excellence by building and sustaining supportive relationships, creating a sense of purpose and belonging, and developing social skills necessary for successful working with people from all backgrounds. Studies have shown that SEL has a positive impact on numerous outcomes, including academic performance, emotional and mental well being, as well as a healthy identity and sense of self.

Although social emotional learning has such a significant impact on student outcomes, not just within the classroom but also further beyond as well, it only consists of five compenents. These five components are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and making responsible decisions. Social emotional learning is not a typical subject covered in class, however it can be developed by integrating numerous components in one's curriculum throughout the school year.

One of the many ways social emotional learning can be integrated in one’s curriculum is acknowledging the emotions of students. This can be done by simply asking students how they are doing and providing context for why they may feel a certain way pertaining to a certain experience. Acknowledgement of student emotions can also take place during group sessions. At the end of day, students can discuss what challenges they’ve faced, how they felt when they encountered such challenges, and how they overcame them. Students can also be given the opportunity to apologize for any mistakes they’ve made and students who have been wronged can be given the opportunity to accept the apologies given.

Another way social emotional learning can be integrated in one’s curriculum is by providing students with opportunities to practice mindfulness. This can be done by starting each with quiet time where students can close their eyes, practice breathing exercises, and think about what they want to learn during the day. During this time, students can also receive affirmations and encouragement to motivate students to reach their full potential and to move forward despite failures experienced. In order to help students practice mindfulness, an area of the classroom can be designated as the reflection room, where students can think about the decisions they’ve made and how they can make better choices in the future.

Lastly, social emotional learning can be integrated in one’s curriculum by celebrating student success. At the end of the day, students can be acknowledged by teachers for being consistent in completing their daily tasks, showing kindness to others, sharing, or helping their classmates. By acknowledging good behavior it is reinforced and encouraged. Furthermore, it develops a culture of showing kindness, being responsible, and looking out for others. When social emotional learning is integrated in curriculums, students achieve higher academic outcomes and interact better with their peers and figures of authority despite their background, interaction skills needed to be successful whenever one goes.

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