90% of teachers in the US believe social emotional learning can improve academics, but fewer educators know how SEL can benefit themselves (Satchel Pulse, 2020). Research shows that practicing adult SEL improves teachers’ wellbeing and mental health, yet SEL is often only discussed in relation to student wellbeing.
In this blog, we put the spotlight on teachers. We aim to highlight the advantages of SEL for the educators in our schools. While the benefits of SEL are both numerous and inextricably linked to each other, we call attention to the nine main advantages for teachers. Here’s what the facts say:
1. Reduced burnout and demoralization
61% of teachers in the US say that their work is always or often stressful (American Federation of Teachers). Even though SEL cannot ease all of life’s troubles and workplace issues that often cause stress, such as feeling underpaid or unsafe, it can help educators reduce the effect this stress has on them. Learning how to check in with your emotions with self-awareness can be a highly effective strategy for teachers, especially those prone to feeling overwhelmed and short-tempered. Developed SEL competencies can help teachers recognize and avoid triggers, as well as strengthen positive coping mechanisms for triggers that cannot be avoided. In turn, this will reduce the chance of burnout.
2. Greater workplace satisfaction
By recognizing one’s own emotions, we can hone in on the areas in our lives which cause us the most distress. Teachers can use self-reflection abilities to pinpoint the areas in their workplace where they’d like to see improvement and then, using social awareness and relationship skills, can communicate these thoughts with school leaders. This will help develop an engaged, positive work environment and ultimately lead to higher workplace satisfaction.
3. An honest alignment between personal values and those taught to students
Leave hypocrisy out of the classroom and set an SEL example to your students. One of the best ways to teach young people skills such as responsible decision making, self-awareness, and self-management, is to show them. Leading by example is therefore one of the most effective ways to teach SEL and should not be disregarded by educators. This is also an effective method of integrating environmental SEL without explicitly targeting it in your lesson plans, and gives students a positive social emotional role model.
One of the best ways to teach young people skills such as responsible decision making, self-awareness, and self-management, is to show them.
4. More enjoyable classes with fewer problematic students
Did you know that after completion of an SEL program, 24% of students improved social behaviors and lower levels of distress, 23% improved attitudes and 22% showed fewer conduct problems (Durlak, J.A., and Mahoney, J.L., 2019)? Having better-behaved students means classes run smoother and more effectively, in turn decreasing both teacher and student stress levels. Having fewer interruptions during lessons is also likely to improve student academic performance.
5. Higher academic results from students
There are many reasons why teachers go into their profession, but one key role educators always have is to help students learn and grow academically. A 2019 study showed that, after completion of an SEL program, 27% of students had an improved academic performance (Durlak, J.A., and Mahoney, J.L.). When students receive increased test results and higher grades, teachers are under less pressure to reach state targets and feel more assured in their teaching capabilities. When morale is high, so is performance.
6. Improved decision making
Stress can impede our ability to make responsible decisions, and often leads us to make biased, rushed, or poorly informed choices (Soares, J., et al., 2012). This could in turn lead to difficult and unfortunate consequences in the classroom and out of it. However, when we feel less overwhelmed, we can be more responsible and optimistic, which is important for making decisions both big and small.
7. Enjoy improved relationships, both professionally and personally
SEL competencies not only help us learn to recognize our own emotions, but also to be more in tune with the people in our lives. As teachers, you can get to know your students better using social emotional learning, particularly after carrying out quick and easy SEL assessments. And, don’t forget: the SEL skills you learn in the workplace can also be applied to your relationships outside of school, too!
8. Quicker and easier lesson planning with SEL-related lesson ideas
Implementing SEL in your classroom opens up a whole new world of ideas for lessons, as well as encourages you to approach lesson planning through a social emotional lens. Furthermore, using SEL toolkits means you get access to a wide range of pre-made, tailored lesson plans and ideas, so creator’s block and time constraints will never mean you can’t deliver great quality lessons. SEL integrations can therefore help teachers become more organized and effective.
9. SEL interventions for when things get tricky
Similarly, another benefit to implementing a social emotional learning toolkit is that they often offer SEL interventions for a variety of developmental concerns. For example, if a teacher recognizes that one of their students is struggling with relationship skills, they can navigate to the relevant section on their online platform and find an appropriate SEL intervention for that student. This saves time for teachers and helps them deliver high-quality intervention sessions for the students who really need it.
So why should teachers practice SEL? The answer is clear - social emotional learning can benefit teachers massively by improving their mental health, reducing time constraints and workload, and increasing workplace satisfaction. SEL should therefore not only be implemented for the benefit of young learners, but also for the wellbeing of school staff. It is worth noting, though, that using SEL in the classroom is only as effective as the effort put into integrating it - to reap the most benefits, district stakeholders should consistently put in genuine, concentrated effort.
Durlak, J.A., and Mahoney, J.L. (2019). The Practical Benefits of an SEL Program. Read it here.
Satchel Pulse. (2020). Supporting and implementing SEL. Read it here
Soares, J. M., Sampaio, A., Ferreira, L. M., Santos, N. C., Marques, F., Palha, J. A., Cerqueira, J. J., & Sousa, N. (2012). Stress-induced changes in human decision-making are reversible. Translational psychiatry, 2(7), e131. https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2012.59.