January 7, 2022 8:00 am

Start with SEL

Overwhelmed educators needn’t view SEL as an add-on. It can be the foundation that transforms students’ learning.

When many of us think about educators these days, the image that comes to mind is of jugglers. Except teachers have a lot more than 3–5 rubber balls to keep in the air, and someone is about to throw yet another item into the mix. At least in the actual circus, the juggler is never tossed a flaming chainsaw and told, “This will make it all easier!”

When teachers are entrusted with students’ social and emotional learning (SEL), it’s often with the promise that, if taught properly, the SEL labor will ease the workload of their other responsibilities: Give students a robust SEL curriculum, and they will work harder! Learn quicker! Behave better! Tada! But for a juggling – and struggling – educator, the added responsibility without guidance on how to implement it just feels like a flying, flaming chainsaw.

Fortunately, SEL education doesn’t have to be ‘one more thing’ for teachers to take up at the expense of something else. Instead, when teachers adopt the philosophy of Start with SEL, the SEL effort becomes an integration of what they’re already doing, which takes a lot of the pressure off and builds a foundation for immediate and lifelong learning.

Two smiling girls walking with bags

If you’re a teacher, being intentional and naming the SEL tactics you have in play in your classroom will help identify what you’re already doing. Try filling in these blanks:

You’re teaching them organization skills through _______.

They’re practicing problem-solving with _______.

They’re building resilience every time they _______.

See? You already have a solid SEL base to build from! You’re helping them be healthy human beings even as they learn how to be successful students. Plus, when teachers are provided with a program with flexible implementation options, it makes starting with SEL not only more manageable but more effective.

The Benefits of a Flexible SEL Program

Educators can implement SEL in a variety of ways, and the best programs provide the flexibility to support multiple delivery models, working seamlessly with what’s already effective in individual classrooms. For example, with Imagine Purpose Prep, teachers can choose to facilitate lessons and discussions as synchronous, full-class activities, or have students work asynchronously by engaging with online discussion boards and assignments. They can also combine SEL topics with other curricula.

However the program is exercised, each of Imagine Purpose Prep’s evidence-based courses is aligned to the five most critical SEL competencies outlined by CASEL:

  • Building self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

For example:

In grades 6–8, courses address students’ experience of increased autonomy and perspective-taking abilities by targeting personal development, character, and leadership development. In grades 9–12, the focus of the curricula shifts to emphasize identity development, resilience, risk prevention, and empathy.

Research demonstrates that when SEL is integrated into core learning, students develop the productive attitudes and prosocial behavior needed for success in school, work, relationships, and life. That’s why, now more than ever, SEL is a great place to start.

Start with SEL.

Explore these free resources to see how Imagine Purpose Prep can help you build an effective SEL foundation.

About the Author — Kallie Markle

Kallie Markle lives in Northern California with her family of humans, house plants, and dogs. The humans take up the least amount of space. Before joining the education world, she wrote her way through national parks, concerts, tourism, and brewing.