This post on supporting youth in social emotional learning was originally published in 2010. We are sharing it again for folks newly interested in social emotional learning and as a barometer to those living this work. Look how far the field has come!
Valentine’s Day reminds us of the importance and joy of reaching out to our loved ones and letting them know we care. Fortunately, there is a growing movement in education to extend this practice beyond the calendar holiday and into the daily lives of students in schools.
As my Valentine to you, I am excited to share a sampling of resources I have discovered in my research on the subject of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). For parents, teachers and community members who wish to make an impact on the climate in local schools, there is growing support. Here are a few places to start.
What is Social Emotional Learning?
A process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively and ethically.
These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. They are the skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.
How do we know SEL works?
The movement to implement SEL in schools is not based on speculation. To the contrary, scientists and education theorists have been hard at work over the past decade researching the far reaching benefits of SEL. For a powerful and inspiring primer on the extensive body of research, enjoy the following interview with psychologist, Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.
What does SEL have to do with Yoga?
Practicing yoga deepens self awareness and enhances our ability to self care, both fundamental aspects of SEL. In this month’s Yoga Journal, Trudie Styler (wife of Sting), says yoga practice ” is an exercise in listening…it teaches you to tune in to your relationships.” The ability to listen deeply is essential to developing empathy, another core component of SEL. While most dedicated practitioners of yoga will enjoy these benefits if studying with a qualified teacher, in my experience, these benefits are greatly enhanced in yoga classes for adolescents due to the nature of class experience. Time spent in dialogue, journaling and self-expression help youth discover ways to transfer their yoga education into daily life situations.
The Trailblazers of Social and Emotional Learning
Here, I would like to honor a few of the individuals who have courageously carved the path toward Social and Emotional Learning in schools.
“Education is a social process. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey
“What will transform education is not another theory, another book, or another formula but educators who are willing to seek a transformed way of being in the world.” ~Parker Palmer
“We’re finally learning that it is not an either-or situation … Feelings and learning and emotion are all very integral to each other.” ~Linda Lantieri
“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.” ~Paulo Freire
There are way too many incredible leaders in the field to mention here. In closing, I’d like to pay tribute to one last trailblazer the movement lost this year, Rachel Kessler (1946-2010). Kessler’s The Soul of Education is an excellent book that is sure to upgrade anyone’s knowledge of SEL.
“Kessler celebrates the diversity of beliefs in our free country…But she wisely understands the spiritual emptiness of our times and knows that we ignore the souls of our children at their peril, and ours. Children need encouragement and guidance in struggling with the deeper meaning and purpose of life in a society that glorifies the material over the spiritual.” ~Marian Wright Edelman
A new era of care and compassion in the classroom is coming. I am heartened by the many ways that yoga can help teachers and parents achieve our goals for creating harmonious, loving environments for our youth.