Laura Ansteatt, SEL Program Specialist

Have you ever been asked to do “just one more thing”?  As a parent raising twins, I remember countless “suggestions” to help my children become more successful.  In my time as a classroom teacher, I can recall countless presentations of new programs at faculty meetings and the feeling of being overwhelmed.  As adults, we sometimes look at these ideas as just ONE MORE THING to add to our long list of things to do. The good news is social and emotional learning (SEL) is not about one more thing we have to do, it’s really about consciously reinforcing what most parents and educators already do for children every day.

 

Building a Solid Foundation

SEL is an important foundational skill in the development of all children. As a young parent and preschool teacher, I remember encouraging my own children and my students with positive words.  I wanted to help them to recognize and manage their emotions and build their self-confidence with recognition and praise.  Without thinking about it, I naturally encouraged the development of self-awareness and self-management.

As my own children became ready for more formal school settings, I continued to set examples, encourage respect for others, and model communication and social skills to help build their social-awareness and relationship skills.

When I began teaching middle school, I was able to reinforce all of those previously learned skills to add higher level problem-solving and responsibility skills for both my students and my own children.  Without much planning, I was assisting them in learning responsible decision-making.  Long before I formally heard of SEL, like many parents and teachers, I was helping to build these competencies and preparing these children for success as they grew.

 

Supporting SEL in the Classroom

The impact of having this solid foundation can be seen in the classrooms we support. I was excited these past few weeks to be asked to step back into the classroom.  I had the opportunity to represent Frameworks for the Great American Teach-In at one of our middle school sites and model a PATHS® (Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies) lesson in 3rd grade at one of our elementary sites.

During both of my visits, I was reminded of something really important: the impact of SEL.  My middle school presentation was modeled after our Community Building Sessions (CBS); something these students take part in at their school regularly.  At the end of each class, I had the opportunity to walk around the room in the last few minutes to individually chat with students who did not want to share with the whole group.

These students shared personal stories because they understand their classroom is a safe and welcoming place. Middle school students have such an amazing capacity to be thoughtful, kind, and caring, but they aren’t always given the opportunity. The impact of CBS allowed these students the opportunity to showcase these SEL skills and it showed in these students.

 

Social and Emotional Learning teaches Foundational Skills

The end of the year can be exhausting with all we have to do.  Sometimes the last thing we want to think about is adding “one more thing.”  Simple things like encouraging words, positive language, greeting our children and building collaborative communities reinforce SEL skills daily. The truth is, SEL is not just one more thing, SEL is what we already do as parents and educators every day.  It’s about reminding ourselves of the importance of SEL as foundational skills in child development.  I am proud to be a part of this support of SEL along with parents and educators to make a positive impact on the youth in our community.