Central Susquehanna IU 16: Social-emotional learning for school safety, academic progress

Want to work at Google? Leave your high-tech wizardry at the door and tout your skills at coaching others, communicating and listening, understanding different points of view, supporting your colleagues, problem solving, and making connections across complex ideas.

Google’s recent report on the keys to success surprised the world, but in reality, the tech giant was describing the “soft skills” highly valued but hard to find in the business industry. In the field of education, “soft skills” are known as social-emotional learning, or SEL skills.

Now, Central Susquehanna IU 16’s Center for the Promotion of Social & Emotional Learning (CPSEL) is helping schools infuse SEL into classroom practices. CPSEL, an initiative of CSIU’s Center for Schools and Communities, launched in 2017 to help schools instill in students the basics of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Schools have access to many SEL programs, but integrating them into daily routines requires concerted effort. CPSEL offers consultation to plan SEL implementation and to use data to measure progress; professional development to infuse this implementation schoolwide; and coaching to help teachers improve techniques.

It’s about “creating an environment where students feel connected to others and valued as individuals with unique perspectives,” said CPSEL Director Shileste Overton Morris. “When you’re going to change an entire school climate, everyone needs to be on board. We can weave SEL into just about anything we do, whether it’s a science lab or math class or physical education. But it is a process that takes time and requires opportunities for skill-building for both adults and students.”

Of the 16 skills cited by the World Economic Forum as necessary for the 21st century, 12 are SEL skills. And yet, more than half of U.S. manufacturers and business CEOs report serious problems finding workers with the skills needed for workplace success.

The benefits of SEL implementation extend beyond career readiness and success. Research shows that SEL: SEL is included in Pennsylvania’s Act 44, the 2018 school security law, as a critical piece in overall school safety, dovetailing with mental health services and security practices. All combine to create school environments where every student feels connected.

“You can’t bypass these foundational skills that kids need,” said Strategic Partnerships Managing Coordinator Amy Moritz. “Schools have always been about preparing students academically.  But now, when we look at successful life outcomes, we realize that schools need to support the development of broader social and emotional competencies.” (www.cpsel.org)

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