Social and emotional competencies can help educators manage their stress and navigate the coming school year in a healthy manner

3 steps educators can take to build social and emotional competence this summer

Social and emotional competencies can help educators manage their stress and navigate the coming school year in a healthy manner

If you are an educator seeking to integrate SEL into your teaching practice–whether for personal stress management, professional development, classroom management, relationship development, or for all of these reasons–take the summer months to engage in the following activities to build your personal social and emotional competence before the busy school year begins.


A foundational practice educators can start with is reflecting on their own social and emotional competencies. If your district uses an existing SEL framework for students, consider using that same framework as a basis for your reflection so your efforts are aligned with the work you are doing with students. If your district does not have an SEL framework, CASEL’s competencies is a nice research-based place to start.

Once you decide which competencies you want to reflect upon, ask yourself the following questions: What does this competency mean to me? Why is this competency important for my role as an educator? How does this impact my students? My colleagues? How can I enhance my own skills in this competency, as well as the skills of my students and/or colleagues?

Personal growth plan

Once you have reviewed your responses to these reflective questions, decide which strategies you would like to use. There are a variety of SEL strategies that can support educators in their growth. For example, if you want to work on Optimistic Thinking, you can use a strategy like The Sense that Keeps Me Going, available through this free guide.  Once a strategy or group of strategies is selected, create a personal growth plan to determine how and when the strategies will be used. Reflecting on past experiences of trying to acquire a new habit or practice can be helpful in determining how this new skill will be developed.

Once you have selected a strategy, ask yourself the following questions: How often will I practice the strategy? How will I remind myself to use the strategy?  How will I record and track my use of this strategy? How will I evaluate the outcome of my use of the strategy?

Build a support team

When you are working on a new goal, habit, or skill, having an accountability partner can add to your success. Think about when you work with students. You may often serve as their accountability partner in helping them stick to deadlines and making sure they are on track with learning different subjects. That doesn’t change when you reach adulthood! In fact, the busier your lives become, the more important accountability partners and extra support can be.

Once you’ve finalized your growth plan, find a trusted manager, colleague, or friend with whom you can share your SEL goal and who can help you stay on track. Schedule time to check-in with them about your progress.

Reflecting on your SEL competencies, identifying strategies to strengthen them, creating a growth plan and finding a support team to help you meet your goals are all activities that you can work on during the next few months to prepare for the coming school year.

The past year has highlighted the importance of social and emotional learning, both for teachers and students. If educators can take time this summer to reflect on and strengthen their own social and emotional competencies using the steps above, they will be better prepared to support SEL for their students when school resumes.

Paul LeBuffe

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