How to Manage Social-Emotional Learning Needs in the Classroom
know that social-emotional learning, also known as SEL, is an
important and crucial student need, but managing this in the
classroom can be difficult. After all, there’s so much on
educators’ plates and SEL is one
weighing on educators’ minds.
for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
defines SEL as “the process through which children and adults
acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills
necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive
goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain
positive relationships and make responsible decisions.”
SEL is more important than ever right now.
COVID-19 pandemic shifted our lives upside down almost overnight.
Students witnessed family members lose their jobs, fall ill, and
struggle with isolation. Students themselves went from attending
in-person classes to attending classes over Zoom and not seeing their
friends for months.
shows that remote learning hampered connections between educators and
students. In fact, according to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s
just 7% of educators felt prepared to address the SEL
needs of their students during remote learning in 2020.
a lot of trauma in an already tough year.
no surprise that the vast majority of educators — 94% —
agree that students need more social and emotional supports.
with students back in classrooms, it’s important educators continue
to monitor and address their students’ SEL needs. While reading and
math gaps might have traditionally been higher up on the list of
priorities, addressing SEL needs sets them up for success. After
all, academic needs can’t be met until students’ SEL needs are
I’ve highlighted a few tips for addressing SEL needs in the
classroom, as well as how technology can help the increased emphasis
on SEL feel natural and authentic.
are you?” It’s a quick and simple question that we often
overlook, but asking students how they’re doing or how they’re
feeling welcomes students to class and starts each morning with a
also serves as an SEL check. If a student isn’t doing great, what
can I do to help? What’s bothering you this morning? A simple
question goes a long way and might lead to a bigger discussion.
educators, we can’t change our students’ backgrounds or what they
face outside of the classroom, but by checking in with students, we
can help students feel comfortable and safe—setting the foundation
and note students’ well-being
many times have you noticed something and made a mental note, only to
forget it at the end of the day?
post-it notes and notepads have their place, electronic notes and
recordings are important when discussing students’ well-being and
mental health. This also creates a single database where your
colleagues can record their own observations about specific students,
allowing educators and administrators to take a systematic and
coordinated approach when addressing students’ social-emotional
health. Safeguarding as a practice addresses these risks — setting
educational leaders up to effectively manage students’ non-academic
properly implemented, Safeguarding as a practice reduces the time and
cost of reporting student concerns, documenting evidence, managing
tasks and follow-ups, assigning referrals, auditing paper trails and
a supportive atmosphere
average school year is 180 days. A safe and supportive learning
environment gives students a space to express themselves and share
their feelings and thoughts. Students come from different
backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences. It’s important we set ALL
of our students up for success.
are places where students need to be helpful, cooperative, kind and
caring about one another. Students want to succeed, as well as be
supported and valued. As educators, it’s important we create a
supportive atmosphere from the first day of school to the last day of
students opportunities to speak, participate and lead. Encourage
students to engage in their own unique ways. Some students might be
comfortable raising their hands and speaking. Other students might
prefer to write their answers. No matter students’ preferences,
provide options to encourage participation.
supportive atmosphere where students feel supported within their own
needs leads to academic success and makes school a place to not just
learn, but grow.
importance in school and beyond
exciting to have students back in the hallways, classrooms and school
grounds. We’ve got a lot of things on our plates this year, but by
weaving SEL supports into the learning, we’re setting students up
for success — in
and out of the classroom.
About the Author
Linton is the Executive Director of Safeguarding in the U.S.A. for
UK-based The Safeguarding Company, a provider of software and
training to systemically protect students’ well-being. Curtis has
spent the past twenty years documenting highly effective equitable
practices and advocating for schools that work for all of today's
diverse students. With The Safeguarding Company, Curtis is
introducing Safeguarding practice and the MyConcern platform to US
schools as a way to actualize student equity by managing the whole
child's needs—both their academic and non-academic concerns.