By Stacy Howard, Bixby’s SEL & Movement Specialist 

It’s SEL Week this week, and Nina has asked me to pen some thoughts on Social Emotional Learning. It’s the topic I like talking about most in the whole world (except maybe my own kiddos), so I absolutely agreed! So here’s an intro to my thoughts on SEL as we work to bring it into focus here at Bixby.

Social Emotional Learning. Or SEL. It’s something we are hearing a lot about in education these days. But what is it? And why is it important to communities and students today?

Well, let’s just talk about the basics. In 1994 (Durlak, Domitrovich, Weissberg, & Gullotta, 2015) an organization named CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) was launched. This group wanted to establish evidence-based SEL programs in preschools through high schools as an essential role in education. They named five competencies that they deemed essential: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

CASEL has taught us through evidence-based research that explicit instruction and student-centered learning that allows for collaboration and reflection among teachers and students is what’s most effective.

This means that putting information in front of kids in an explicit way is important, but we also have to leave lots of room for kids to ask questions, ponder, and use collaborative skills to engage in the learning process. We want them involved with their brains and also with their hearts … social-emotional learning truly teaches to the Whole Child.

CASEL’s research has also shown us that there are tons of short and long-term positive attitudinal and behavioral effects from implementing SEL programs.

  • Students are more committed, persistent, empathetic, and have a larger sense of connection to their own purpose
  • Students have reduced conduct problems and unhealthy risk-taking behaviors
  • Students have decreased emotional stress
  • And finally, they do better in school! Improved test scores, improved grades and improved attendance just to name a few.

These things are HUGE! Giving our students an opportunity to add these tools and competencies to an already profound set of academic tools is something that every school and every teacher can do on some level. It’s an exciting time at Bixby and I’ll leave you with this quote: “The real core of education is the relationship between the teacher and the student, and the extent to which that relationship nurtures the longing of the child to matter in the world.”