Why Social Emotional Learning is Key to Your Child’s Education

Ask many parents what skills they are most concerned about their child having to enter Kindergarten, and you will hear about early reading skills, letter identification, and handwriting ability. But ask public and private school Kindergarten teachers what skills they think are most important, and you will hear a different story. Educators  know that the key skills they want in new students are not academic ones at all. Instead, they are looking for children who can self-regulate their behavior, be flexible when faced with the unexpected, and can work collaboratively with others. What do these skills have in common? They are all considered part of Social Emotional Learning.

At a recent presentation, Ruth Cross, Senior SEL Consultant with CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, www.casel.org), asked attendees to think of a young person they knew and share what skills they would need as they face the world. The audience called out words like resilience, empathy, kindness, collaboration, self-awareness, self-regulation, and initiative. According to Ms. Cross, all of these traits are social emotional skills, and not traditional academic ones. A lack of these skills, she explained, impacts a child’s ability to do well in a school setting and in their future work life.

Think about the importance of these five areas that CASEL has identified as social emotional skills, and we think you will agree: 

  • Self-awareness 
  • Self-management 
  • Social Awareness 
  • Relationship Skills 
  • Responsible Decision Making

More and more research supports Ms. Cross’ claim. Kindergarten students who come to school prepared with these skills show significant gains through 4th grade (https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/selstudy/). And research shows that these gains last far beyond the school years, offering greater success in the workforce and in social relationships (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-sel-essential-for-students-weissberg-durlak-domitrovich-gullotta). 

At Tobin School Westwood, we have long embraced our role in helping children develop these skills. Our teachers make time each and every day to model appropriate social interactions, to assist as children work to solve problems on their own and practice working together with others. We use SEL programs like Peekapak (www.peekapak.org) as a framework to focus on skills like self-regulation, honesty, respect, gratitude, and optimism. Our faculty use teachable moments throughout the day, including snack, lunch, and recess times, to help children effectively self-advocate, share their opinions respectfully, and think about the needs of others. We build in mindfulness practice with yoga and breathing exercises and provide opportunities to practice these skills. We’re proud to have long believed in the value of SEL and to make time for it in our curriculum and school community. We’re proud to be on the forefront of this work with children and encourage you to learn more about the value of SEL in helping all our students be ready to take on life’s challenges.