The Power of Social Emotional Learning

Posted by Diane Hale on 10/13/2019

It's undeniable that the world our children live in is very different from the world in which we, as adults, grew up in. The rate of change is unprecedented in generations before. We can point to technology, to information, to family structure, to media, or to countless other ways in which our world is different, but the bottom line is, this changing world requires a different approach to teaching and parenting. Let's face it, our kids can learn a lot just from Google. Their world is filled with information, with choices, and with opportunities to succeed. That all sounds like great news for learning, until you stop and realize what may have been squeezed out of our children's lives in this fast-paced world is human connection, social skills, and unique problem solving. 

The need to explicitly teach and model social and emotional learning has become paramount in schools all across America, maybe even the world. Educators can't read an educational journal, or attend a conference without hearing about Social and Emotional Learning. Researchers know that without, what used to be referred to as "soft skills", our children don't stand a chance dealing with the  key factors that have remained true in every generation - emotional intelligence and human interaction. The bad news of addiction, suicide, depression, and violence among our youth haunts us as parents and as educators, but we can do something about it, and the good news is, what to do, is what we do best...Teach. 

At Tarwater, we took on the challenge of addressing the Social and Emotional Learning over two years ago and continue to keep it as one of our primary focus goals. Our Social Emotional Target (SET) committee began by doing a book study of Tribes Learning Communities by Jeanne Gibbs. From there the committee established our own Tarwater curriculum for addressing these skills. We developed strong outcomes, articulated over the grade levels and even created our own classroom resources. This year, we are excited to have adopted the Caring Schools Community Curriculum. This research-based program will help us build upon what we have begun and go deeper into establishing a strong school culture and in devloping individual student social and emotional skills. 

If you haven't heard about it already, you'll hear your child talk about "community circle", class meetings, role playing, and self-advocacy. Campus-wide buddy classes are established for more than just a fun way to work with other students, but an intentional way of building rapport and problem solving skills across grade levels. Students are taught to describe their emotions in terms of "zones" and colors, and vocabulary is taught to help identify emotions. Instead of adults solving all social problems, students are taught to seek the guidance of an adult and be empowered to solve problems themselves. These are just a few of the ways we are taking the Social Emotional Learning challenge head-on. Like everything we do, data drives our decisions. Student survey data, school-wide incident data, and Toro Ticket distribution data help us track our success and examine our needs. 

Please take time to visit some of the links below to learn more about this important work your school is doing. 

National Education Association

CASEL - Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning

Caring Schools Community