- States should increase attention to the social-emotional needs of teachers and the stress they experience so they can fully implement social-emotional learning (SEL) instruction for students, says a new white paper from the National Association of State Boards of Education.
- Several states have already launched “adult SEL” efforts, such as Washington’s Compassionate Schools initiative, which prioritizes educator training on equity, cultural relevance and trauma-induced stress. Illinois emphasizes SEL through its principal preparation, leadership coaching, and mentoring models. California state guidelines “encourage school leaders to build SEL capacity for adults through an intentional focus on relationship-centered learning environments,” and the Massachusetts Trauma Sensitive Schools program “advocates for a ‘whole-school’ approach and views teachers’ well-being as fundamental to a school’s success.”
- The report suggests that state boards play a larger role in promoting adult SEL by building consensus at the state level around the issue and embedding SEL training within school leadership policies.
SEL, which has received increased attention in recent years, helps students manage their emotions, create and maintain more positive relationships with others, make more responsible decisions and become more productive in attaining their goals. These skills can help students not only improve academically but become better citizens as adults as well.
These benefits can also extend to teachers and school leaders who incorporate SEL practices in their own lives. If educators are not practicing self-care and self-control, they often burn out or become frustrated, which can create a negative environment in the classroom and throughout the school. Students also learn SEL skills better when educators model these skills, which was one of the conclusions of the Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development. Educators, however, may not have attended schools where SEL was emphasized and many received little or no training as part of their teacher preparation programs.
As state boards of education ponder whether adult SEL programs need to be encouraged or mandated, district and school leaders can take steps to promote adult SEL though professional development. Some resources are already available. School leaders can also incorporate SEL practices by listening to teachers and by developing a strong social-emotional climate for teachers and school staff.
“When schools establish a strong social-emotional climate among adults, the benefits are clear," Jill Harrison Berg, a leadership coach and school improvement consultant, wrote in a recent post on the value of adult SEL. "Recent studies have found that in schools where faculty members collaborate and develop strong communication and trust, teachers are not only more likely to learn from each other and stay in the profession, but they are also able to boost student performance."