Have you ever heard about Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)? The term could sound a bit complicated, but it actually identifies the process through which students – at all ages – acquire and apply the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions. The importance of SEL is crucial: it allows children and adults to be confident and maintain positive relationships through the means of empathy and self-responsibility.
First of all, it must be pointed out that implementing Social-Emotional Learning shouldn’t be considered only educators’ business: the process, in order to be effective, must involve teachers, families, students and all those figures that play a key role in growing next generations. Introducing SEL into school systems embeds strategic choices, staffing, professional training and budgets, but it will then turn out to be beneficial in all these fields, highlighting performance improvement, engagement and collaboration.
CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) identifies five core competences developed by SEL.
The first one, Self-awareness, is essential to deeply understand ourselves, recognizing our emotions, both positive and negative ones, and the way they impact our behaviours. Self-awareness helps student to better identify their strengths and weaknesses, and this is the starting-point to build their future.
The second core competence that can be developed through SEL is Self-management. It can be defined as a step further in self-awareness, as it focuses on learning how to act on our feelings and behaviours; once we are able to recognize our emotions, we should learn how regulate them: the field is that of stress-management, anger control and self-motivation, beside many others.
Another key competence is Social awareness: it’s easily understandable the need to work not only on our intimate self, but also on our perception of the society around us. Social awareness deals with the development and empowerment of empathy, to grow respectful human beings that can be sensitive towards others’ feelings, behaviours and experiences.
A further step is thus developing Relationship skills: active listening, correct speaking, cooperation and conflict resolution are some of the soft skills that prove to be necessary to initiate and maintain healthy relationships with people around us, both on personal and professional fields.
The fifth and final core competence is Responsible decision-making. It deals with the ability of proactively manage our life in a way that can generate well-being, for ourselves and for those that can be affected by our choices.
A 2015 research by the American Public Health Association demonstrates that students who receive social-emotional education in their early ages are more likely oriented to obtain college degree, adult employment and other measurable benefits later in their lives.
Indeed, school is the place where young students find themselves, for the very first time and on a daily basis, in the need of connecting with themselves and relating to other people, such as classmates but also more authoritative figures. Therefore, school is naturally a key environment in children’s life and it can’t be released from its liability to grow socially and emotionally aware individuals. Considering also the great amount of time that students spend into schools, could you imagine how much can be done for their social-emotional growth inside the classrooms?
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