A student comforts an unhappy friend, showing why SEL in classrooms is important.

5 benefits of SEL in classrooms

Social-emotional learning is quickly becoming a cornerstone of education in many districts--find out why SEL in classrooms leads to big benefits for students

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has become a large part of the discussion around what belongs in classrooms, mainly because putting SEL in classrooms opens up a door to new opportunities for students to learn how to support themselves and others.

When students have access to SEL in classrooms, they learn to regulate their own emotions while at the same time becoming aware of other students and those students’ different experiences and needs.

These skills help students as they move through school, but they also help them long after they leave the classroom, because SEL gives students the skills they need to successfully navigate a world full of people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs.

If your school is considering curriculum or resources to put SEL in classrooms, here’s just a sampling of where SEL can have a large–and positive–impact on students.

5 ways SEL in classrooms can benefit students

1. SEL in classrooms helps educators address trauma. When trauma goes unacknowledged by caring adults, students can feel suffocated by the burden of their experience. Research shows that traumatic experiences can drastically hinder students’ academic development and can lead to attendance and behavioral problems. This research, coupled with the fact that almost half of U.S. students have experienced at least one or more traumatic experience, presents a significant barrier to academic success for a large population of students. The goal of trauma-informed teaching is to help all students feel known and supported.

2. By teaching SEL in classrooms, students learn how to manage their own stress and anxiety. Have you had a student act out when you try to redirect her misbehavior? Ever had a kid freeze on a test and then give up in frustration as he forgets everything he studied for? Or have you had students who simply, seemingly randomly, shut down out of nowhere and refuse to participate? If so, it might be time to examine how to help students reduce stress and anxiety.

3. SEL in classrooms can be combined with technology to give students new learning experiences focused on different cultures and ways of life. When our students are able to meet students who look, learn, and live differently than they do, eyes open and perspectives change. They find so much in common, but also celebrate and appreciate differences. They marvel at new information and new ways of thinking. They feel pride in sharing about their communities and schools. The shy kids become a little less shy when they have the chance to speak and share in the comfort of their classroom but the “safety” of just using video to communicate.

4. SEL helps everyone, from students up to educators and administrators, create culturally-inclusive classrooms. It’s almost impossible to ignore that K-12 classrooms in the U.S. are filled with students from increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds: race, nationality, religion, economic, etc. Many teachers, though, still aren’t sure how to move from recognizing the diversity to creating a mutually responsive learning environment.

5. SEL in classrooms can help address gender stereotypes in age-appropriate ways. showed that kids who are fed gender stereotypes may internalize those roles, shaping their behavior for years to come. Stereotypically-gendered media shows kids a narrow view of who they are and what they can be. Girls must be princesses: damsels in distress and sexual objects. Boys must be superheroes: decisive and strong. While it’s the role of a parent or caregiver to communicate the family’s beliefs about gender expectations, teachers are key role models in kids’ lives and have an enormous impact on how kids regard themselves and their capabilities. It’s important to be mindful of how our words, actions, and content choices in the classroom can perpetuate or combat gender stereotypes.

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Laura Ascione
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