March 26th, 2021, was Social-Emotional Learning (“SEL”) day. SEL day celebrates the importance of social-emotional learning for students. To understand the importance of SEL day, one must understand the importance of social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning is the process through which we “acquire and effectively apply the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Seeing what SEL encompasses, promoting effective social and emotional learning is in schools’ and teachers’ interests, not only because of the social benefits to the student but also because of the educational use. The clear advantage of promoting SEL is that students learn about understanding emotions, being self-aware, maintaining relationships, and making responsible decisions. Once students understand these concepts, they would be more capable of having positive behaviors and relationships with their peers, leading to fewer behavioral issues and improved academic performance. In other words, SEL seeks to improve students socially and emotionally while, as a result, improving them academically.
There are many approaches to promoting SEL that range from an individual approach to a school-wide approach. For instance, one way to encourage SEL with a small cohort of students may be simply talking about understanding and managing emotions. There are other methods to promote SEL school-wide. An example of a school-wide approach to SEL is the “Leader in Me” (“LiM”) program. LiM believes in “developing the whole person” instead of focusing solely on students’ academic achievements. In the spirit of “developing the whole person,” LiM also has an SEL program that “focuses on the personal and interpersonal leadership capacity of students, staff, and families.”
Some Academica-supported charter schools participate in the “Leader in Me” program. Mater Brighton Lakes Academy, a K-8 school in Osceola County, participates in this program. Carmen Cangemi, principal of Mater Brighton Lakes, describes leadership as the foundation for their school. She describes the program as one that helps students—regardless of academic achievement—become leaders, help others, have a growth mindset, and overcome obstacles. By teaching students to have a growth mindset and a sense of leadership and service, the program promotes learning beyond the classroom.
Programs such as LiM promote the skills necessary to develop students both as individuals and learners—something that a solely academic focus would lack. These programs also remind us of the importance of having a holistic approach to educating our students. Educating our students goes beyond basic arithmetic, writing, or reading. Promoting social and emotional learning reinforces the importance of developing our students as people.