When I reflect on my own experiences as a student, I often think about which teachers had the greatest impact on my learning and what made them so excellent. It wasn’t the popular teacher who put on the best show or the teacher who made me memorize the most to meet standard. The teachers who shaped me as a learner and informed my own education practice are the ones who showed they care, who saw me, who went out of their way to connect and then pushed me to do my best. They built communities in their classrooms and placed equal emphasis on how to learn and collaborate well, and not just the end result. If this echoes your own experience, then your teacher incorporated Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as part of their teaching practice–their artistry.

If your children have been in school a while, you probably heard about SEL, or Social-Emotional Learning. It may have started out as an initiative by your school district. It may have made its way to the cover of your parent newsletter. You may have even gone so far as to wonder why your child is practicing breathing techniques while stressing out before a test. It’s great that schools are putting some priority on SEL. However, to fully understand the urgency and possibilities of SEL, our students and schools need significantly more than an initiative and catch-phrase.

New Pacific School understands that Social-Emotional Learning is the foundation for all learning and we treat it as such; it’s the premise of our whole school.

We believe that strong SEL programs: 1) foster a strong sense of self and identity; 2) teaches and models emotion management; 3) builds empathy and social skills; 4) empowers students to communicate effectively; 5) values healthy relationship-building; and 6) prioritizes the skills to live a meaningful life. If we do not have a process to learn how to learn together, then great learning is not possible. These components are certainly a tall order, but our school is up for the challenge.

As a public school, we are beholden, committed and accountable to academic standards and ensuring your child is skilled. We take this responsibility very seriously, but standards and academic demands change over time. What does not change are the learning habits that will make our students successful in any setting, with any task, and at any age. While it was great that a few of my teachers incorporated SEL before they knew what SEL was, this would be unacceptable in 2021. We do not need a few teachers making a difference. We need transformational systems of educators prepared to support all students. It is time to put focus on creating healthy, lifelong learners and supporting schools who prioritize impactful, whole-child learning that lasts a lifetime.

Romyl Mabanta, MFA MAEd

Learn more about SEL:
CASEL: https://casel.org/sel-framework/
SEL Series: https://ca.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/self-awareness-social-emotional-learning/social-emotional-learning-video/