Social and Emotional Learning has the potential to improve an entire generation. So why aren’t SEL practices widespread?

What should our schools be teaching? It sounds like an obvious question, and reading, math, science, and history sound like the obvious answers. But what about social and emotional skills – the stuff that prepares children for their careers or college-life, as adults?

While this may sound like a good idea in theory, it’s actually much more than that. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) investments make fiscal and political sense too – for schools, districts, and our larger society as a whole. This is because, research shows, the payoffs are huge. A study for CASEL on SEL asserts

“that social and emotional learning improves grades and standardized test scores, boosts graduation rates and postsecondary completion rates, and leads to better employment outcomes.”

And it’s the right thing to do for students. SEL can empower students with self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills – “improving behavior, classroom management, school climate, and even student health,” CASEL concludes.

On the whole, educators are largely on board with bringing more SEL into schools. In the CASEL study, 98% of surveyed principals “believe that social and emotional skills should be taught to all students.” And CASEL found in a previous study that “nearly all teachers (95%) believe social and emotional skills are teachable and report that SEL will benefit students from all backgrounds, rich or poor (97%).”

In light of this overwhelming research and support, it’s natural to question why there isn’t more SEL in classrooms around the country. One reason might be because teachers, as we all know, are overworked. If one barely has enough time to get everything that’s asked of them done in one day – there’s no time or energy left to add something new.

And perhaps it’s also because, while everyone can agree on the principles of SEL, they’re not sure how to put them into practice. In the study, 60% of principals report “teachers lack the training necessary to support students’ SEL needs.” And a further 83% of principals say they themselves “don’t know how to measure SEL success.”

The education advocates over at The 74 Million assert that “to embed SEL into the everyday interactions between school-based adults and students, school and district leaders must commit to investing more in professional learning opportunities.” And they offer five steps of practical advice for professional development.

But districts and school leaders can provide tools for the classroom, too.

Hero is a simple and effective tool for schools that helps encourage responsible decision-making and relationship skills – two key components of SEL. Inside the classroom, every day, teachers can use Hero to recognize students who exhibit constructive behaviors like sharing, group participation, being on task, listening to others – and any number of additional things. This works to catalyze more of these reinforced behaviors, and schools using Hero consistently see a campus-wide increase in the behavioral skills they set out to cultivate.

Hero also works with schools to set up the behavior matrix that best coincides with the SEL needs of a community. And our year-round support includes the teaching training that’s necessary for teacher buy-in. With a team that’s dedicated to their success behind them, teachers get practical and effective ways to support the behavioral skills they know will make a difference.

Considering that 82% of teachers expressed a desire to receive SEL training, offering effective tools plus professional support can be a win-win for schools and the community at large, too.