Incorporate Social-Emotional Skills

TIPP 9: Incorporate Social-Emotional Skills and Positive Coping

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is increasingly recognized as a critical component of academic and life success. In many schools, SEL has become part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen students’ academic performance, improve school and classroom climate, and lessen or prevent problematic behaviors such as bullying and peer harassment.

In a trauma-informed approach, SEL is a core component of efforts to strengthen students’ emotional regulation and conflict resolution skills—areas that can be particularly challenging for children who have experienced trauma. Skill building through SEL is both a way to address specific needs and to strengthen relationships. Further, when students have opportunities to learn and practice skills together in a supportive classroom, the routine itself can bring students closer together.

It is critical that SEL be applied through an equity lens. The ways in which students relate to and socialize with others is influenced by the larger racial and cultural communities of which they are part. Thus, SEL should be a culturally adaptive process that resists a one-size-fits-all way of thinking. In that regard, the goal of SEL instruction is to base engagement of core social–emotional skills on an appreciation for how students’ patterns of interaction are similar and different.

Applied through an equity lens, SEL involves teachers as co-learners who engage in reflection on how their own backgrounds, cultural practices, and biases shape their thinking about how students should communicate and behave. This reflection then should shape teachers’ interactions with students.

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