Friday, April 26, 2013

My Favorite Topic! SEL

Social Emotional Learning

Social Emotional Learning instruction is an extremely important area of focus for elementary education. As an Elementary School Principal, it is my belief that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) instruction will have a significant impact on students’ feelings of well being and these feelings will have a direct impact on student learning/achievement in the elementary school setting. In fact, 20 years of research has shown that children need a strong foundation of social-emotional competence to succeed in school. Successful schools ensure that all students develop their student’s academic skills. Furthermore, successful schools need to focus on developing students that have the skills necessary to function socially in our complex society. SEL goes beyond the classroom to promote the emotional skills that are needed to be successful in life. 
Social Emotional Learning is a conceptual framework for school and academic improvement that addresses social and emotional skills essential for all students. The SEL skills are designed to create attitudes, and behaviors that promote healthy social relationships, personal well being, and academic achievement. Interest in SEL sparked in the mid-1990s with the publication of Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995). Goleman proposed the idea that individuals are born with general emotional intelligence that determines their potential for learning emotional competencies. Goleman describes emotional competence as a learned capability based on emotional intelligence that results in outstanding performance at work or school. He believes our emotional intelligences determine our potential for learning the practical skills that are based on its five elements of competency: self- awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships. It is important to note that Daniel Goleman is a co-founder of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that was established in 1994.
            The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) The Collaborative Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to establish social and emotional learning (SEL) as an essential part of education. In an effort to promote children’s success in school and life and to support the healthy development of all children, CASEL has designed and implemented a social and learning program with five teachable principles to help students acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful team members and problem solvers.  CASEL defines Social Emotional Learning as follows,
SEL is the process of acquiring and effectively applying the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to recognize and manage emotions; developing caring and concern for others; making responsible decisions; establishing positive relationships; and handling challenging situations capably. Similar to the way students learn academic skills, they learn, practice, and apply SEL skills by engaging in positive activities in and out of the classroom.

Furthermore, social and emotional learning is the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems and establish positive relationships with others, competencies that clearly are essential for all students. As social and emotional factors play such an important role in student mental health, behavior, and academic performance, schools must attend to this aspect of the educational process for the benefit of all students. The five teachable principles help students acquire the skills and the knowledge necessary to be successful in learning environments. The five teachable principles are: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship building skills, and responsible decision-making.
            As, I have written about previously, Open Circle is the adopted Social Emotional Learning curriculum of the North Reading Elementary Schools. Open Circle is a curriculum that is utilized to teach these the skills described within the CASEL framework. Open Circle is a classroom-based primary prevention program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The multiyear, comprehensive program has two goals:
1.     Strengthen students’ social and emotional skills related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and interpersonal relationships and problem-solving.
2.      Foster safe, caring, and cooperative classroom and school climates.
            These skills are linked to creating good friendships, higher level thinking, and academic achievement. 
            Social Emotional Learning instruction benefits our school community significantly through the implementation of this wonderful program. As Open Circle celebrates it twenty-fifth anniversary it is exciting to note that Open Circle was named a "CASEL Select Program," one of only 22 in the country. 

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