Academic journal article The Future of Children

Social and Emotional Learning and Teache

Academic journal article The Future of Children

Social and Emotional Learning and Teache

Article excerpt

Summary

Teachers are the engine that drives social and emotional learning (SEL) programs and practices in schools and classrooms, and their own social-emotional competence and wellbeing strongly influence their students. Classrooms with warm teacher-child relationships support deep learning and positive social and emotional development among students, writes Kimberly Schonert-Reichl. But when teachers poorly manage the social and emotional demands of teaching, students' academic achievement and behavior both suffer. If we don't accurately understand teachers' own social-emotional wellbeing and how teachers influence students' SEL, says Schonert-Reichl, we can never fully know how to promote SEL in the classroom.

How can we boost teachers' social-emotional competence, and how can we help them create the kind of classroom environment that promotes students' SEL? Teachers are certainly at risk for poor social-emotional wellbeing. Research shows that teaching is one of the most stressful occupations; moreover, stress in the classroom is contagious--simply put, stressed-out teachers tend to have stressed-out students. In the past few years, several interventions have specifically sought to improve teachers' social-emotional competence and stress management in school, and Schonert-Reichly reviews the results, many of which are promising.

She also shows how teachers' beliefs--about their own teaching efficacy, or about whether they receive adequate support, for example--influence the fidelity with which they implement SEL programs in the classroom. When fidelity is low, SEL programs are less successful. Finally, she examines the extent to which US teacher education programs prepare teacher candidates to promote their own and their students' social-emotional competence, and she argues that we can and should do much more.

As the articles in this issue attest, research in the field of social and emotional learning (SEL) has grown dramatically in recent years. We've learned that we can promote students' social and emotional competence, and that doing so increases not only their SEL skills but also their academic achievement. (1) In other words, for our children and youth to achieve their full potential as productive adult citizens, parents, and volunteers in a pluralistic society, educators must focus explicitly on promoting social and emotional competence.

Teachers are the engine that drives SEL programs and practices in schools and classrooms. Yet until recently, their role in promoting SEL and their own social and emotional competence and wellbeing have received scant attention. What do we know about teachers and SEL? Do they buy in to integrating SEL in their classrooms? What about their own social and emotional competence and wellbeing? How does teachers' social-emotional competence influence students' SEL, and how can we promote it? How do teachers' beliefs about SEL influence their implementation of SEL programs? And do prospective teachers receive any information about SEL and their own social and emotional competence in their teacher preparation programs?

The importance of these questions should not be underestimated. If we don't accurately understand teachers' own wellbeing and how teachers influence students' SEL, we can never fully know whether and how to promote SEL in the classroom. Such knowledge could not only guide theory, it could also give us practical information about how teachers can steer students toward becoming socially skilled and well-rounded individuals, ready to responsibly navigate their personal and professional paths to adulthood.

SEL and Teachers: A Framework

Extensive research evidence now confirms that SEL skills can be taught and measured, that they promote positive development and reduce problem behaviors, and that they improve students' academic performance, citizenship, and health-related behaviors. (2) Moreover, these skills predict such important life outcomes as completing high school on time, obtaining a college degree, and securing stable employment. …

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