Social Emotional Learning Coming to Atlanta Schools

Guess what I’ve been up to this summer?  I’ve been in school….where I just finished the summer semester teaching Educators in Thomas University’s Master’s Program. The course I teach is called Cultivating Collaborative Classrooms through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and it is akin to the skills I teach parents to develop self-awareness, regulate emotions, and collaboratively problem-solve in their families.Along with my passion to support children (and parents) in their home environment, this is a dream come true to impact the lives of children in their school environment. It seems that research is finally validating what I’ve known for a long time–that children’s social and emotional development is important to their academic success in school.

Research shows that SEL has a positive effect on school climate with students showing better classroom behavior, more motivation to learn, and a deeper commitment to school. Of course, what finally got Education Administrators’ attention was research that showed students who received SEL instruction had achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction. Schools that implemented SEL into their curriculum also haddecreased disruptive classroom behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts and disciplinarian referrals.  And they also reported fewer incidences of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.
The pendulum is swinging the other way as we are beginning to realize the negative outcomes of the “zero tolerance” policies of the last decade.  Instead of suspending or expelling students for negative behavior, we need to teach them skills to deal with their anger and conflicts.
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week said that Atlanta Public Schools will spend more than $1 million over the next year specifically to teach students how to become self-aware, responsible, caring adults through social emotional learning instruction.  And earlier this year, three bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress which earmark a portion of the national Education budget to SEL programs in schools nationwide.
Developing students’ ‘social-emotional learning skills’ will help improve their academic performance and behavior and have other benefits, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.  “Research shows our students can master these SEL skills and develop their hearts, along with their smarts, to become better people than we could ever be,” she said in a written statement.
I’m so excited to be part of this movement toward teaching children valuable life skills that go way beyond their school years!