Educators Need Social-Emotional Learning, Too.


Social-emotional learning is all the rage in education. However, the focus is mainly on the children and not on the adults. Rarely is it discussed the possibilities of addressing the social-emotional needs of educators. It is time to explore how social-emotional learning for the adults can positively change the field of education. It is time to discuss that educators need social-emotional learning, too.

As a principal of a high needs school, my team and I focused on developing great social-emotional programming for our students. Our students came to us with an array of emotions, experiences, and circumstances. Consequently, we recognized that these issues affected teaching and learning. Then we took into consideration the needs of our students and began to offer services and programming as a means of support.

While providing social-emotional support to our students, we did not look deep enough into the needs of the teachers and staff members. We implemented great programs like Calm Classroom, Second Step. CHAMPS, restorative practice and peace circles. We also created a care team consisting of counselors, social workers, psychologists, teachers, assistant principal, and principal. Also, we provided professional development to the teachers in all of the programming. We became a trauma-informed school. However, now in hindsight, one component was missing. Social-emotional learning for teachers and staff should have been a priority, too. 

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

What is social-emotional learning? According to CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning, it is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, 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. Also, there are five competencies to social-emotional learning.

1. Self Awareness
2. Social Awareness
3. Responsible Decision-Making
4. Self Management
5. Relationship Skills

Social-Emotional Health is a Priority

Why do educators need social-emotional learning? Well, stress among educators is very high. Unfortunately, it’s spurring high turnover and burnout rates in districts across the country. Teachers and administrators are not feeling supported by districts, overwhelmed by all of the required standardized testing and compliance paperwork. Most of all, educators are not trained to address the needs of the students with high needs for social-emotional supports.

Social-emotional health must become a priority in our profession. Therefore, we need physically and emotionally healthy teachers in our classrooms. Also, we need healthy administrators running our schools. So, let’s begin to think about how teaching the five competencies to the adults can make our schools more conducive to teaching and learning.

The Five Competencies

Briefly, think about the competencies. What can each do to help a stressed or overworked teacher? How can these competencies create positive shifts in a school building? Firstly, self-awareness supports identifying emotions and perceptions. Self-awareness gives a teacher the ability to recognize his or her strengths and limitations. Once this occurs, a teacher can pace himself or herself. Then, he or she knows how much work can be handled and begin to set personal goals.

The second competency, social awareness focuses on empathy and perspectives. Being socially aware is to recognize others and appreciate their circumstances, challenges, cultural diversity, and behavior. Also, our country is one of the most diverse in the world. Students, families and sometimes co-workers are coming from unstable countries, communities, and homes. As educators, we have to become socially aware of their plights. Being socially aware affects how we communicate with others and our decision-making process.

Our students are culturally and ethnically diverse.


Responsible Decision-Making & Self Management

The third is responsible decision-making. Children and adults must all learn to make the right choices around our own behavior and interactions with other. Then, we must know the consequences and effects of our actions and choices. A school building is a small microcosm, therefore, responsible decisions can easily affect the lives of children, families and staff members.

Next, self-management is built around how to manage one’s emotions. We all know that teaching is emotional, stressful and carries much responsibility. Sometimes students, parents or coworkers can make you angry or frustrated. Self-management is learning how to control your emotions, manage stress and self-discipline. We tell children to learn how to control themselves all the time. Now it’s time for us to learn how to control ourselves.

Lastly, the final competency is relationship skills. Working in a school requires us to build relationships with our students, parents, community members and staff members. We must have the ability to listen, speak with respect, work in teams and overall communicate with each other. Our students watch us and see how we interact with others. Afterward, they mimic our behaviors. We must give them positive examples.


Educators need social-emotional learning, too. It is an opportunity to enhance social-emotional learning for students. If a school or district incorporates it for adults and children, then it becomes an intricate part of the educational process. Social-emotional learning can allow teachers to teach through not only their knowledge but through a different level of awareness of their students’ emotions, experiences, and circumstances. So, let’s begin a huge paradigm shift around social-emotional learning. Let’s begin to create and offer opportunities for educators to understand their need for social-emotional learning.

Additional Resources
CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

Mindful Schools,

Mindfulness, Courage, and Reflection for Educators,

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