While discussing the recent socio-emotional learning boom with a colleague, Kellie Bhari (@Kbhari5), she called to my attention the fact that SEL is indeed salt. In French. Salt is a preservative. Salt is the basis of most seasoning mixes. Salt is essential, regulatory, nutritive, healing, did I say essential?
I won’t bore you with facts and figures, but the research says that students who have a sense of belonging do better in school than students who don’t. When a school is a place students–and teachers–want to be, everyone is less stressed, more content and better able to achieve. Students learn better from teachers they like. So, as much as I hate bandwagons, the SEL one is a bandwagon we should all be on.
I am warm and fuzzy– in a strict, pragmatic kind of way, an emotional hybrid who has always believed that the world could be a better place if we were to be kinder to one another. As a child I would come in crying, not because I was hurt, but because the kids were being mean to one another. I’ve never been much for “roasting” (“the dozens” for Gen Xers), fail videos, boxing or brutal talk and reality TV shows. I’m the person who rescues puppies, helps sick people in parking lots and goes to fish funerals when invited. I am also the person who navigates the social media waters without stirring the pot for discussion’s sake. I am the teacher who has always built on kindness as the foundation of class management and collaborative learning.
Helping students learn to manage emotions and work collaboratively makes magic in a classroom. When students are taught explicitly to check attitudes, mean-spiritedness and cliquishness at the door, it makes a difference. Quiet students learn to speak out. “Smart kids” build alliances with the “popular kids”. Churlish students find their smile. And everybody can risk failing up.
Maybe you are more of a content nerd ( a good thing, btw) or maybe your school has a schedule that doesn’t leave much time for “extras”. Maybe this is the first you’ve heard about kindness being a part of SEL or maybe you’d just like to know more. Randomactsofkindness.org has a host of resources that are easily integrated into an already full school day. If you’re the bucket filler, challenge your students to do one nice thing for someone else today. And join them. And if you are a go big or go home type, introduce SDGs, the UN’s 17 sustainable global goals, where you and your kids can spread kindness on a global scale. Whatever you do, find a way to add SEL components to your lessons and watch the change.
Yes, salt flavors everything. SEL, likewise, so while the pressure is on and you are gearing up for STAAR, don’t put away your SEL shaker. Send a positive note home, tattle about something good your colleague did, do something nice for yourself, your spouse or your “personal” kids. Sprinkle each day with a little extra kindness. Your students will be better for it, and so will the world.