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Calling All District Leaders! Learn How to Become an SEL Champion

Most educators know that social and emotional learning (SEL) is important. Especially in the age of COVID, students and educators need strong social-emotional skills to manage their emotions, maintain a healthy sense of well-being, cooperate with others, stay motivated, and achieve goals.

Unfortunately, due to misinformation and disinformation, some confusion has arisen around what SEL is and its benefits for students. District leaders are in a unique position to help others understand the importance of SEL.

Here are three ways you can become an SEL champion.

1. Have clear and consistent messaging.

The first step to clearing up confusion around SEL is to separate facts from misinformation and disinformation. Start by creating a common language that clearly defines SEL and emphasizes the importance of SEL for both students and adults.

To guide you in creating clear and consistent messaging around SEL, CASEL has outlined how to create an SEL Communication Plan. Use this guide to build SEL awareness, increase buy-in for teaching SEL in schools, and emphasize the benefits of SEL.

Once you have clear messaging, incorporate this into all communication, including your district’s strategic plan. Doing so makes it clear that SEL is a district priority, and it can help facilitate widespread buy-in.

2. Integrate SEL into your learning standards.

All 50 states use learning standards to support instruction in core academic subjects such as math, language arts, and science. By establishing learning goals around SEL, schools can more effectively train educators to support SEL and measure student progress in developing these important skills. 

Here are some ways to integrate SEL into standards:

  • Define how SEL can be embedded with general instruction in core content areas.
  • Establish concrete ways to foster SEL and classroom management.
  • Make sure all staff members understand what SEL truly is and how teachers can incorporate social-emotional competencies into all areas of instruction. 
  • Build effective systems of accountability.

The Illinois State Board of Education’s SEL standards is an excellent model and includes the following components: 

  • Goal 1: Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.
    • Identify and manage one’s emotions and behavior.
    • Recognize personal qualities and external supports.
    • Demonstrate skills related to achieving personal and academic goals.
  • Goal 2: Use social awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships.
    • Recognize the feelings and perspectives of others.
    • Recognize individual and group similarities and differences.
    • Use communication and social skills to interact effectively with others.
    • Demonstrate an ability to prevent, manage, and resolve interpersonal conflicts in constructive ways.
  • Goal 3: Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community settings.
    • Recognize the feelings and perspectives of others.
    • Recognize individual and group similarities and differences.
    • Consider ethical, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.
    • Use communication and social skills to interact effectively with others.
    • Demonstrate an ability to prevent, manage, and resolve interpersonal conflicts in constructive ways.

Each of these goals includes benchmarks and “performance descriptors” that clearly detail what students should know and be able to do in each grade level.

You may want to use this framework as a guide for establishing your own SEL standards.

3. Get educators/staff, students, families, and the community excited about SEL.

SEL is an all-hands-on-deck effort. Recruiting others to become SEL champions is important for attaining widespread awareness and buy-in. Here are resources, ideas, and initiatives that can help you get large-scale SEL buy-in from important stakeholders:

SEL Resource Library: Supporting Parents and Caregivers
SEL Resource Library: Supporting Staff with Effective Professional Development
SEL Resource Library: SEL Research
SEL School and District Success Stories
Blog: SEL and Your Community: Five Ideas for Inviting Community Members to Support Your Students

It’s important that we all do our part to help clear up confusion around what SEL is and why it’s important for education staff and students. We hope you find these tips helpful as you begin championing for SEL in your district.

Want to learn more? Contact our SEL experts today!

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