Social-emotional learning took root in classrooms across the country as schools committed to teaching not only standard reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also emotional well-being.
Education experts say that when SEL is embedded in schools, student performance improves and it helps students learn how to regulate their emotions and communicate how they feel to staff and other students. said.
“You can’t learn without being regulated,” said Cassidy Bristol, a counselor at Wilson Elementary School. “It’s just the truth. You can’t.”
But as schools expand their educational focus, SEL has drawn the ire of some critics, who say programming is overkill at best and indoctrination at worst.
According to CASEL.org, SEL helps students “develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, feel empathy for others, and demonstrate empathy.” By doing so, we focus on educational equity.
Proponents say SEL is a positive way for people to develop skills and manage their emotions, thus reducing violent behavior, depression and anxiety among young students. Wilson Elementary School in Colorado Springs 11th School District has seen fewer suspensions and improved academic performance since the school recently enhanced SEL programming and counseling, according to Bristol.
Wilson schedules SEL so that Bristol can visit her classroom to teach on specific topics, such as building healthy friendships, and students can meet with her in her office for individual counseling. Her teachers also spend time teaching “Random Acts of Kindness” to help “the school create a culture of kindness,” according to her curriculum website.
Bristol was named a 2022 Elementary School Counselor by the Colorado School Counseling Association. District 11, whose Bristol said it adopted her SEL and supports its counselors, also swept last year’s awards at the middle school and high school awards.
But neighboring 49th School District has had a more tumultuous relationship with SEL. This is because some community and board members have criticized programming as dangerous and agenda-driven.
This hot topic issue came to the fore at the D-49 board meeting in December, when the split school board approved the SEL curriculum by a 3-2 vote. The vote cemented a list of 18 programs already in use in district schools.
“There is no need to teach children to be victims in this great nation of ours to seek out the evils of society,” said the opposition in a passionate effort to protect children’s innocence and children’s innocence. Board member taking the mantle, Ivy Liu, said. A can-do spirit. “This is what some of us think the SEL program is driving.
Liu’s like-minded individuals say emotional development is best left to parents rather than teachers. Programming can veer toward teaching critical racial theories about social justice and equality, she said, if instructors do not have the proper experience or training. As a psychological tool, it transforms children’s core values and attitudes.
Sarah Clapham, another award-winning counselor for D-11 at West Middle School, said lessons sometimes tackle topics like race and differences. She said the discussion is driven by what the students want, not the agenda.
“If you choose to avoid such conversations because of controversy, you will not be able to know who your students are and be responsive to their needs,” Clapham said. We take conversation seriously and try to create an environment where we can have real, really rich conversations and where people can share their experiences and feel safe enough to share those experiences. increase.”
The SEL tenet is not a new concept. For decades, educators have managed students’ emotions in some way. It was rejuvenating conversation instead of punishment, and encouraging kindness among peers. This approach evolved into a formal curriculum only in the 1990s, when the term SEL was officially coined.
School counselors say SEL programming has become increasingly important since COVID-19 has forced children to stay home for extended periods of time, depriving them of the socialization skills they normally develop at each stage of life. increase.
Citing survey data collected from students returning to face-to-face instruction, Bristol said, “Many of them came back with very low compassion.”
For over a year, students have been taught not to touch others. Hiding a person’s face masks even more complex issues and makes it difficult to interpret what emotions they are feeling.
“It was a huge developmental time they didn’t learn. ‘Oh, are you sad? You should ask them how they’re feeling, what’s wrong with them,'” Bristol said. It’s like teaching them what they think is something they don’t know.”
Bristol teaches children how to identify and label their emotions rather than using unspecified terms like “weird” or “off.” In this way, staff can best understand how to assist each student based on their emotional needs.
“A child who doesn’t know how to calm down will grow up to be an adult who doesn’t know how to calm down,” said Bristol.
Bristol said that is her motivation to teach SEL now for a more peaceful future.