What is Social and Emotional Learning and why is it important?

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Traditionally, people have always believed that the role of the school is to develop a child’s academic knowledge and that the job of teaching social and emotional skills should be left up to parents and caregivers. But in a changing world, the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL) is being recognised and introduced and integrated into school curriculums, making sure that they participate in developing active and impactful future citizens. This article explores what SEL entails and why it is so important for a positive future for our children and our country.

What is SEL?

Social and emotional learning is the process through which children, and adults, develop and apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to:

  • understand and manage emotions,
  • set and achieve positive goals,
  • feel and show empathy for others,
  • establish and maintain positive relationships, and
  • make responsible decisions.

Benefits of SEL

By implementing SEL in the classroom, teachers provide the tools for scholars to build self-knowledge and self- trust; allowing children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflict respectfully and make both the right choices and the safe choices. Being one of a very few number of schools in the world to include social and emotional skill development as part of every scholar’s whole learning experience, SPARK can uphold substantial benefits which include:

Improved Behaviour

With SEL, bullying is no longer a socially-accepted behaviour. SEL promotes non-violence and empathy for others which reduces aggressive behaviour, emotional distress which ultimately results in positive behaviour inside and outside the classroom.

Increased Self-confidence and Compassion

Through SEL children and young adults learn to value and embrace their passions and personal strengths, as well as become more compassionate towards themselves and others. With a strong focus on understanding differences, and the fact that it is normal to have differences between people, a great level of respect is instilled in dealing with disagreement.

Strong Character and Citizenship

Children who are socially and emotionally competent are skilled in five core areas; they are both self-aware, and socially-aware, able to control their emotions, have good relationship skills, and can demonstrate responsible decision-making. These skills result in solid characters of good citizens who take responsibility for their actions and understand that success is found when you create and live a meaningful, fulfilling life which positively impacts others – instead of solely and selfishly focussing on job titles, qualifications and income.

SEL, the SPARK way

At SPARK Schools we use the Dovetail Toolbox as well as Project Happiness as programmes to achieve and instil the above skills. The Dovetail Toolbox helps to strengthen a scholars’ ability to manage their own social, emotional and academic success by giving them twelve tools to assist in dealing with stress, frustration or sadness in an appropriate way that ensures a positive outcome for them and those around them. Project Happiness is a specialised emotional resilience-building programme, with the purpose of teaching proven techniques to develop one’s own true happiness. Project Happiness explores seven areas, namely happiness, obstacles to happiness, self-reflection, self-mastery, compassion in action, interdependence and sharing your gifts.

SPARK’s focus on developing great citizenship is not only important when it comes to our scholars, but it applies to all our team members, including all teaching and operational staff. With a focus on developing technical and leadership skills that nurture social and emotional development, SPARK employees receive 245 hours of professional development per year. This forms part of our ongoing commitment to be part of the change in our communities and to support our team members, and scholars, in becoming better South Africans and living better lives.

Let us know what you think the most important skill in SEL is? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!
To see SEL, the SPARK way, in action contact us for more information.

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