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 Importance of Social and Emotional Learning in today’s society

 Lakshmi Annapurna Chintaluri, Independent Education Consultant

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the

most resilient and responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

 The 21st Century has brought with it a transformative culture in every dimension of one’s life, revolutionizing the way everyone looks at life and their respective needs. The present generation of learners have been very quick to adapt to these changes, be it technology, social media or automation affecting many of their daily chores.

The life of generation Z is dictated by social media to a large extent. They are working very diligently to increase their Digital Social Quotient – where they put in a lot of effort to increase the number of friends they have online like Facebook, Instagram etc.,, who can give them likes, comments and shares. It is the same story with millennials, who are the present generation of parents to school going children. But, how much effort are all of them putting in, to build their Emotional Social Quotient where today one can safely say that they have so many people around them, on whom they can rely on, or, those that will stand for them and by them through thick and thin?

The rising number of domestic violence cases, the trauma that children who are witness to this and the lack of emotional strength, resilience and empathy shown by the adults is a clear indication of lack of socio emotional quotient in the society today. Students also face a lot of trauma, whether it is to tackle the pressure of academic excellence, peer pressure, or other evils of the society like poverty, anxiety, depression, drug addiction, bullying, drinking alcohol etc., All of this is ensuring that many students are not able to achieve their true potential today.

This brings the focus to Social & Emotional Learning which can offer a powerful means to support children to develop good emotional strength, empathy, resilience all of which go a long way in developing the necessary skills to build relationships and exhibit the collective resolve to strengthen schools and communities. This emphasizes the importance of introducing, inculcating and making Social and Emotional Learning a part of the curriculum for students today from preschool to high school which actually helps to empower the students to not only handle their life themselves but also contribute to the society in a productive manner.

Aristotle said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”

What is Social & Emotional Learning..

Social and emotional Learning is the ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development. It includes self-awareness, control of impulsivity, working cooperatively, and caring about oneself and others. It is the process through which children and adults develop the skills, attitudes, and values necessary to acquire social and emotional competence. Daniel in his book Emotional Intelligence, provides evidence for social and emotional intelligence as the complex and multifaceted ability to be effective in all the critical domains of life, including school. He puts it across very simply by saying that “It’s a different way of being smart.”

SEL promotes activities that develop children’s ability to recognize and manage emotions, build relationships, solve interpersonal problems, and make effective and ethical decisions. Developing these social and emotional skills is even more critical for students living in under resourced areas, both urban and rural. Students in urban areas and or in areas that are under resourced are surrounded by added stressors that make it difficult for them to learn. When students develop social-emotional competencies, they are more capable of seeking help when needed, manage their own emotions, and solve difficult problem situations.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning is a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence- based social and emotional learning that supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all PreK-12 students. According to CASEL – there are five core social-emotional competencies, each addressing multiple skills that students need to be successful in school and their future careers. The five overarching competencies are Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Relationship management and Responsible decision making.

Who is responsible – Home or school..

There has been a debate as to who is responsible for inculcating these social and emotional skills in the children today. Is it home or school? There is a school of thought which says that the task is solely the responsibility of families. According to them, the family should be the place where the child learns to understand, control,

and work through their emotions. Social and emotional issues are essentially private concerns that should be left at home before a child enters a school, as, school is a place where they need to focus on acquiring academic knowledge. The school, they say, is there to provide an environment where the agenda was not supposed to be interpersonal relationships, but the task at hand i.e., academics. There is learning to be done so what does this have to do with “feelings”?

On the other hand, educators have always understood the implications of social and emotional issues for students’ learning and development. The best teachers have always been adept at helping children develop socially and emotionally, and many teachers are naturally gifted at promoting the skills, attitudes, and values of competent social and emotional development.

As Stephen Covey puts it as one of his seven habits – seeking first to understand than to be understood, where the teachers are trained to listen not only with their ears, but also with their eyes and heart… It is easy for most people to recall a teacher who made them feel capable of managing the challenges of learning, or whose classroom environment provided an ambience where everyone understood the importance of respecting one another and resolving problems cooperatively.

Majority of people share their experiences of having a teacher or having been associated with a teacher, and emphasize that it is that one or few teachers whom they remember till late in life, as being the people who have shaped their character and made a difference to their lives. There are others for whom, it is these experiences—and the feelings associated with them, which has made them to take up teaching as a profession and indicate that these experiences are the reason why they are dedicated to children and to teaching.

How to integrate SEL in a classroom

The social and emotional education of children needs to be provided through a variety of diverse efforts such as classroom instruction, extracurricular activities, a supportive school climate, and involvement in community service. There are many social and instructional teaching practices and strategies like mindfulness techniques, challenging thinking, developing a growth mindset, developing empathy and gratitude that can be followed by the educators to inculcate social and emotional learning as part of their curriculum.

For a teacher who focusses on Social and Emotional Learning, Ms Lori Gard writes, “At the end of the day,” “most students won’t remember what amazing lesson plans you’ve created. They won’t remember how organised your bulletin boards are. How straight and neat are the desk rows. But they will remember you. Your kindness. Your empathy. Your care and concern. They’ll remember that you took the time to listen to them. That you stopped to ask them how they were. How they really were.”

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