SEL skills are critical for students, both in school and when they enter the workforce--here's what you need to know

5 essential SEL reads

SEL skills are critical for students, both in school and when they enter the workforce--here's what you need to know

Key points:

  • SEL skills are vital for students’ success now, and in the future
  • Here are tips on how to create a thoughtful and impactful SEL program
  • See related article: Why SEL isn’t a dirty word

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical for our students as they move through school and as they enter the workforce. Learning to work with others who have different backgrounds and viewpoints, having emotional regulation skills, and being able to navigate social situations are must-have skills that employers prioritize as they seek high-quality employees.

Educators are doing all they can to instill these important SEL skills in students—an even more important goal considering the increasing number of students who are experiencing mental health struggles.

Here are five must-reads about SEL and well-being:

1. It’s important to seek out ways to mobilize students in support of SEL. Many local, regional, and nationwide organizations offer contests and scholarships that ask students to demonstrate how they’re using social and emotional learning in their everyday lives to help themselves, their peers, and their communities.

For example, the PACER Center’s National Bullying Prevention Center engages and empowers kids to combat bullying in all its forms. Through the Students with Solutions contest, students worked together to raise awareness about bullying and encourage children to actively participate in addressing this issue. This challenge amplified their voices and empowered them to inspire and support one another, creating a united front against bullying.

2. Because children spend one-third of their lives in the classroom, schools are a natural setting for students to receive support in a non-stigmatizing and barrier-free environment where they have seamless access to early intervention and treatment in one location. School-based mental health care also presents a unique opportunity for us to eliminate barriers to accessing care. Other benefits include students missing less of their classes, parents not having to call out of work to bring their child to appointments, giving parents the ability to attend their child’s appointments virtually, and more opportunity for collaboration between school staff and mental health professionals. 

3. One district developed a comprehensive mental health policy after asking student representatives about SEL skills and support needed by the student body. Data reflects these needs–a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in three high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and nearly half of all students felt persistently hopeless. The Tempe Union High School District has centered its focus on prioritizing student mental health. The district uses a three-pronged approach of enacting a policy, engaging internal staff, and using third-party resources to identify three areas of opportunity for mental health resources: improving wait time for care, embedding a seamless staffing model, and encouraging mental health conversations.

4. As more districts implement SEL programs, it’s important to take a multi-pronged approach to SEL. Prioritizing SEL at the district level, finding programs that help cover multiple bases, and practicing and rewarding positive behavior. Adopting an online student safety and wellness course is another way to connect students with valuable and critical SEL content.  

5. Trends come and go, but it’s not a bad idea to track SEL trends to make sure you’re aware of new resources, changes, etc. Some of the most recent SEL trends include on-demand professional development; bite-sized social family communications that help parents, guardians, and caregivers obtain critical information in just a few minutes.

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