The Value of Professional Development and SEL

It's no secret that professional development is essential for creating a successful educational environment. Additionally, professional development provides educators with resources and the tools needed to prevent burnout, time management and organizational skills. However, many educators are lacking in professional development surrounding social-emotional learning (SEL). In fact, SEL Educators states that 75% of educators have only had informal SEL training.

SEL professional development is not only a helpful tool but necessary for creating an emotionally safe environment for not only the students but teachers as well. Adult SEL can improve teacher well-being, student social-emotional and academic outcomes, impact student-teacher relationships, increase effective classroom management and improve classroom SEL practices.

With 96% of administrators, 93% of teachers and 81% of parents believing that SEL is just as important as academic learning, it is more imperative than ever for educators to implement professional development surrounding SEL.

Professional Development and Social-Emotional Learning

Social-emotional learning is defined as the development of skills necessary for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making. Traditionally, these skills are taught to students through intentional SEL activities.

However, educators without their own SEL training can find it difficult to improve student social-emotional competencies when they themselves are struggling. Educators do not need to have perfected or mastered their own social-emotional skills but being aware of them and having a commitment to continually develop the skills creates an example for the students.

Here are some ways educators can model their own practice of SEL in the classroom:

Self-Awareness:

Emotions matter, especially in unprecedented times we have found ourselves in over the past two years. It’s normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed. In fact, in a recent survey, the top 5 emotions submitted by teachers when asked how they were feeling were: frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, tired and happy.

Emotion can impact your decision-making, relationships, well-being and performance. However, it can be hard to maintain self-awareness in a busy classroom full of learning students.

One way to practice self-awareness is to name the SEL skills you’re using when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed in front of your students. This allows them to see you practicing your SEL skills in a real setting and reiterates that you and your students are partners in developing social-emotional skills.

Self-Management:

Self-management is an important skill set to have, especially as an educator. With a high-stress and demanding role in the classroom, it is imperative for educators that they feel that they are able to manage their emotions and their classroom.

Goal setting is a great tool not only for students but educators. Think about the goals you have for your class and set up milestones you can reach together. Incorporate your students by having them create their own individual goals for the year and which milestones are important to them. By working together, you can model your own self-management while simultaneously teaching students management skills.

Social-Awareness:

There are few places more diverse than inside a school. With administrators, teachers and students coming from all different walks of life, it is especially important for teachers to be socially aware. Social awareness and the ability to empathize with competing perspectives is a necessary skill not only in the classroom but outside as well.

When dealing with administrators, parents and students, educators must be socially aware of differing values and belief systems to progress forward with equity and empathy. A few ways to demonstrate social awareness in the classroom are by allowing your students to share their perspectives on current events and by accepting others’ differing opinions. By modeling acceptance of others, students will feel that your classroom is an open and emotionally safe environment for not only them to share their perspectives but to be accepting of others as well.

Decision-Making:

Educators are no stranger to responsible decision-making, especially when they are responsible for multiple students at any given time. However, modeling your decision-making process in front of students can increase their responsible decision-making and hone in on your current skill set.

Again, simply talking your students through your decision-making process and the “why” behind the decision you made can show them how they should be analyzing the decisions they make and weighing the consequences of their choices.

Relationship Skills:

Relationships are vital to a safe and successful classroom environment. Even more so, having healthy relationships, not only with your students but with the other teachers and administrators, models listening skills, conflict resolution and communication as integral pieces to a thriving school environment.

Not only can you represent healthy relationships by the way you interact with your students, other teachers and administrators, but you can also create classroom activities that focus on building trust and a sense of belonging through active listening and conflict resolution.

In conclusion, professional development, specifically regarding social-emotional learning, is imperative to creating a safe and successful educational environment. By modeling simple SEL skillsets, educators and students can improve their social-emotional skillset, creating better teacher-student relationships, decreasing teacher burnout and improving both the teacher and students’ well-being.

For more information on SEL, check out iCEV’s SEL Toolkit for more ways to incorporate the SEL skillsets into your classroom. Additionally, attend the virtual CTE Professional Development Seminar this August to further grow your skillsets and earn professional development credit.

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