SEL in schools is an important step to students' success outside of school.

The everlasting impact of SEL in schools


Implemented the right way, SEL in schools will give students an incredible array of skills to carry them through life with success

Social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculums are expanding to nearly every school corporation across the nation, enhancing instruction by learning the fundamental skills needed to succeed as a human being. SEL has existed for decades and encompasses various soft skills such as managing emotions, having empathy for others, cooperating, and making responsible decisions. What’s more, SEL in schools has far-reaching benefits–the instruction doesn’t stop when students leave school grounds.

The notion that SEL only impacts students inside the classroom is vastly inaccurate. The effort made by teachers, administrators, and program directors all call for SEL skills to be focused on both inside and outside of the classroom.

Related content: 12 tools for courage and SEL in schools

SEL in schools impacts students outside of the classroom in many ways, including awareness and prevention of drug use, mental health, and career readiness. SEL instruction proves to remain a notable element to improving a student’s state of mind, emotional regulation, and ability to focus, all factors that affect educational opportunities and ultimately, academic achievement.

Academic achievement

SEL encompasses five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Each competency strives to enhance education and social skills to better meet students’ emotional needs.

SEL objectives are designed to be integrated within the. The content, concepts, and activities build and reinforce students’ SEL skills, such as empathy, conflict resolution, and appreciating diversity.

The more students can express and practice SEL in schools, the deeper understanding and knowledge they will gain. Plus, the impact stretches way beyond the classroom. According to a 2017 meta-analysis, higher social-emotional competencies best predicted of long-term benefits such as an increase in high school and college graduation rates, lower likelihood of involvement in the juvenile justice system, and lower incidences of clinical mental health disorders, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use.

Drug prevention

Although much of what SEL in schools focuses upon takes place inside the classroom, the skills are also crucial outside of the classroom and have effects that will benefit students well after high school graduation. Take drug prevention, for example. For years, educators have been struggling with effective ways to teach awareness and prevention of drug use. Drug use and abuse among teenagers is not a new phenomenon. However, new challenges are emerging every day resulting from the misuse and abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol, vaping, and prescription drugs, all occurring at younger ages than ever before.

Related content: 10 signs you’re doing SEL right

Enter SEL curriculums, such as Second Step. Second Step’s holistic approach helps build and refine young learners’ social intelligence through intentional, age-appropriate lessons that utilize engaging games and interactive technology. Programs like Second Step equip students at a young age with the skills to not only avoid drugs and alcohol, but also improve their academic performance and overall behavior in the classroom.

Numerous studies have concluded that the most effective prevention programs provide social-emotional competency instruction, particularly in decision-making, refusal, and emotional regulation skills.

In an evaluation of Second Step, middle school participants reported significantly lower levels of physical aggression at post-test (nine months after baseline) compared to students in the control group. Another study saw students reported lower levels of drug use, more positive self-perceptions of their own self-efficacy to refuse offers of drugs and alcohol, and more positive perceptions of their own social skills compared to students participating in the control group.

Mental health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five children ages 13-18 have, or will, have a serious mental illness. By integrating SEL practices into teaching, curriculums will not only enhance social and emotional skills in the child, but will also help to create a safe and supportive environment in which all children feel they belong, reduce the stigma of mental health difficulties, and encourage help-seeking when children need it–promoting mental well-being in all children.

Career readiness

In addition to teaching the core academic subjects, today it has become part of the school’s job to help young people develop the “soft skills”–otherwise known as “employability skills”–necessary to be successful in the workplace.

Employers need dependable employees who show up to work every day ready to work. They need workers who can work well with others, be self-directed, communicate clearly, negotiate conflict, solve problems, and be self-motivated. Unfortunately, employers have a hard time finding and keeping employees with these skills. Some of the common reasons people lose their jobs are connected to the lack of social and emotional skills including, poor relational skills, inability to work well with others, poor self-awareness, self-centered attitude, lack of self-discipline, and poor attendance.

Whether it be inside the classroom, outside the classroom, or in a student’s home life, the infusion of social and emotional learning and skill development can change the direction and trajectory of a child’s mental and emotional stability. No matter which way you chose to implement SEL in schools, the benefits are everlasting and will impact the lives of students far into their future.

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