Adult Wellbeing is the Foundation of Social Emotional Learning


Adult Wellbeing is the Foundation of SEL

In honor of #SEL Day, ( we wanted to acknowledge the critical importance of adult wellbeing. Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) is a well-researched and effective intervention to help kids learn critical skills. Yet, these skills are not simply learned as a set of facts. In order for kids to effectively learn new social and emotional skills the adults that teach them need to know them first, and then model them to students! Adults need to truly understand SEL and show those skills to the children in their lives.

If you need a bit of understanding on the why, here are four reasons to begin SEL instruction with adults:

  1. Only Regulated People Learn: Learning is a higher-order brain function. Kids do not learn when they are anxious or uncertain. Calm, confident, centered adults set the stage for kids to relax and engage in learning. Trust is built through positive repetitive interactions by adults who choose how they respond to students – not react to them.
  2. Skills are learned through practice: Learning social-emotional skills requires repetition. Adults who really understand how these skills work can help students take advantage of learning situations by coaching and highlighting successes.
  3. Kids are watching! Students see what adults do much more than hear what they say. Instead of just explaining or telling students about a skill, modeling the skill for students also helps them see how the skill works in action, and illustrates some of the more nuanced aspects of it – such as the voice tone one might use in an interaction or the timing of a social skill.
  4. Adults determine the culture: How adults act and interact sets the mood and culture of the classroom. Is it safe, well-regulated, and predictable? In order for adults to do this they need good skills for managing stress, communicating, and making decisions.

At 321 Insight, we developed an online PD module for this purpose- to help adults (teachers, paraprofessionals, classified staff) begin with their own social-emotional skills, and then focus on teaching them to students. Our module helps staff understand what each of the five SEL skills are and why they are important, and then give them concrete ways they can support the development of the skill in students. We believe that with this approach, educators can more easily transition to teaching SEL effectively.

A big part of wellness and SEL is moving from reactivity to intentionality – to where a person makes decisions based on the outcomes they want instead of reacting to things around them. Learning their own social emotional skills is essential for anyone that wants to teach them to students, or work with kids today in any capacity.

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