If you’ve been including SEL in your lesson plans this year, you may wonder when signs will appear to prove that your hard work is actually making an impact. Is it still worth teaching social skills instead of extra math problems? Are the emotional check-ins doing anything at all for your learners?
You may be questioning this even more this year, as parents across the globe continue to deny the importance of social and emotional learning in schools.
Thankfully, the research denies the controversies. Your efforts are almost positively making a difference. The impacts may just be appearing in smaller ways than you’d think. Read on to learn about five of the most common signs that your SEL lessons are working, as well as the SEL pillars that each one points toward.
#1: Students are being themselves
This one may appear subtly, but it’s important to notice nonetheless. Students with strong SEL skills are confident in who they are. They dress the way that they like best, not the way that everyone else wants them to. So when that student stops wearing cookie-cutter clothing and decides to put on his favorite pokemon shirt in the morning, you know you’re on the right track. Even better yet is when his classmates compliment him on his uniqueness instead of poking fun!
This proves mastery of self-awareness as students are sure of who they are and how they fit into the friend groups that surround them.
#2: They’re using self-calming techniques
Maybe you have a calming corner set up in your classroom and students are beginning to use it appropriately instead of as a fun place to hang out, or you look around to see a student taking deep breaths after becoming frustrated with her math homework. If challenges that used to end in tears or angry outbursts are now settling down, your SEL efforts are making a difference in your learners.
Self-management is the SEL pillar that is mastered here.
#3: Friend groups are growing
Are you noticing that those two, inseparable best friends have started hanging out with more than each other? Are the group of girls in the front of the class including others in their group projects? They’re using their newfound social skills to build new relationships. They may even be using empathy to include those who were previously being left out!
Relationship skills and social awareness are strengthened here.
#4: They’re negotiating
This one may feel difficult at times, but negotiation is a necessary skill that students could be picking up from your SEL lessons. They’re confident in themselves and their beliefs, which is allowing them to debate topics and decisions when they feel necessary. They’re making eye contact, leaving space for others to respond, listening to what they have to say, and waiting their turn to share their point of view. So, whether they’re debating current events or trying to talk you into five more minutes of recess, you can feel confident that your SEL lessons are sinking in.
Negotiating requires several SEL pillars, including self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, decision-making, and relationship skills.
#5: Empathy is expanding
Empathy is one of the biggest goals of social and emotional learning. It may not appear overnight. It may show up in some areas before others. For example, you may notice a particular child no longer being left out at recess. You may see children sitting down at lunch tables with those who used to eat alone. And though these may seem like small acts, when they’re done without prompting, they’re authentic proof that your SEL curriculum is making a significant impact. Congratulations!
And as far as SEL pillars go, empathy is the mastery of social awareness.
Isn’t it incredible to see that your efforts as a teacher are paying off? No matter how small the signs are, they mean that your SEL teachings are making an impact. And those skills are far from arbitrary — they will have a positive effect on the lives of your students for many years to come.