The panelists agreed that, at its basis, SEL is the process educators use to help students manage emotions, achieve goals, show empathy, create positive relationships, make responsible decisions and, ultimately, be a successful adult.
Dr. Schaffer pointed to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) research to demonstrate the value of SEL in the classroom.
A CASEL study showed that students who had been exposed to SEL lessons in a regular format or basis were 13 points higher on all state assessments. That’s huge. Even more so, 6 per cent of those students have a higher graduation rate which is another step towards meeting IPS goals.
Fightmaster agreed that many districts who focus on SEL follow the standards of SEL and noted that the competencies CASEL uses are:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision making
In her school, McKenzie gets a lot of questions about SEL and occasionally pushback about why these skills are happening at school vs. at home. She had three examples ready for why SEL is so important for the generation of kids growing up today:
1. They have fewer opportunities to navigate the world on their own
When McKenzie was growing up, she noticed kids were more likely to be free range. They played in their neighborhoods, occasionally fell down and had to pick themselves back up. According to a 2019 study, today, the average American child is outside for only 4 minutes a day doing unstructured activities, leaving them fewer opportunities to manage the world on their own.
“Our third-grade teachers see this all the time: when kids are outside at recess, maybe playing kickball, someone ‘cheats’ and everyone immediately looks at the teacher to be the referee,” said McKenzie.
SEL skills are a good way for teachers to show kids how to problem solve then and there.
2. They have fewer opportunities for communicating directly with others
Gone are the days when a middle schooler or high schooler had to call a friend’s house phone to make plans or ask someone out on a first date. The phone etiquette involved with asking the parent who inevitably answered to speak to their friend is no longer necessary. Nor is the nervousness that needed to be overcome.
“Now that a lot of kids have their own phones and are texting and messaging in a variety of ways, they aren’t necessarily sitting with those feelings of discomfort or learning how to communicate in a more traditional way,” said McKenzie.
3. They have fewer opportunities to take charge of their time
McKenzie shared another flashback to simpler times when, if you wanted to catch your favorite TV show which aired at 8pm, you had to organize yourself and your homework accordingly. “Now that everything is streamed, kids don’t need to have the same time management and organization skills as they did in the past,” she said.
As educators, we need to think about what new experiences and opportunities we can give kids to learn these important skills required to be successful students and adults.