It is quite astounding that SEL has become such a hot issue politically. What exactly is Social Emotional Learning? According to the leading source, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning – 2020), SEL has 5 major areas:
- Self- management
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision-making
SEL is the very foundation that allows all higher-level thinking to evolve. Any research-based curriculum draws on the knowledge of basic human development. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) exemplifies this through the use of a pyramid. The largest task-and foundation of learning-is meeting the physiological needs (food, sleep, basic needs), followed by safety and security, to lead to love and belonging. Once these needs are met sequentially, self-esteem will develop, and self-actualization can occur. In summation, children need to feel school as an extension of home where they can count on the adults around them for support.
Whereas traditional preschool programs are sensitized to the need of delivery of curriculum to support SEL, Pennsylvania is only one of three states to have fully designed standards for SEL benchmarks from K-12. (Illinois and Kansas do, as well). Brain research has indicated that emotion and cognition are interwoven processes. (Bell & Wolfe, 2007). The positive impact of SEL inclusion has been further substantiated by studies indicating a gain of 11 percentile points in achievement, increase in prosocial behaviors, improvement of attitudes toward school and reduction in depression and stress (Durlak et. al., 2011). John J. Medina, developmental molecular biologist specializing in the isolation and characterization of genes involved in human brain development, has concurred that including SEL in curriculum benefits academic gains.
Ensuring proper messaging continually of respect and appreciation for all living things and celebrating diversity is essential. An uncited quote that was recently published on LinkedIn states this urgency quite eloquently, “Teaching emotional intelligence should be as much of a priority as teaching kids their ABCs.”