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The Real Reason to Teach SEL Skills

May 5, 2022

There is a clear, immediate impact of teaching social and emotional learning skills to kids. They can apply the skills to their daily lives, relationships, and academic learning in schools. Studies show students learn more and do better on academic measures of progress. They also feel better about themselves, their friends, their teachers, and their school. School climate and culture are directly related to the school’s SEL curriculum and instruction.

 But there is long-term reason why SEL is important. Skills like self-management, relationship-building, and decision-making are foundational to a person’s life well beyond the K-12 classroom. These apply to life! In the 21st century, lots of people are concerned about the life skills young people learn because we know how essential they are for long term success. These are often referred to “college and career readiness” skills and they are directly related to SEL.

When university professors and deans are asked what attributes lead to success in college, they report things like initiative, perseverance, creativity, and collaboration. They suggest that college students need to think independently and critically about themselves and the world around them, while also thinking outside the box about problems and solutions. Colleges also recognize that for some students, living away from home, becoming self-sufficient, and advocating for oneself may be more challenging than their academic work. A strong skillset in self-management, social awareness, and decision-making is key to all of these.

In terms of career-readiness, SEL skills are at the forefront of what businesses and organizations are looking for in their employees. When CEO’s are surveyed, they often report they are interested in collaboration, willingness to learn, problem-solving, communication skills, and motivation. Most organizations are team-oriented, which means employees need excellent social awareness and relationship-building skills. One example is architecture, where teams of architects, engineers, and planners work together on design projects. They must know how to collaborate, communicate, and manage disagreement. These attributes are the essential skills necessary for success in school, work, and daily living!

And then there is our life-long relationship with others. Every day we connect with other people, serve as members of our local community, and make decisions on how we will impact the world around us. Social and emotional skills are central to these activities and for generations they have been woven into the lessons we teach kids about how to live life and get along with others. The Golden Rule. Niceness matters. Citizenship. Our very democracy is founded on the concept of being responsible for yourself and relying on others.

By teaching social and emotional skills, schools and families are building the skills necessary for success in school, work, and life. These are the building blocks upon which ALL other learning rests! And can lead to personal and communal happiness for everyone.