We have written a series of blogs that focused on ways to integrate social and emotional learning into a myriad of common district and building systems and structures. As we end this series, we wanted to take some time to wrap up by exploring the importance of this work as it relates to supporting a positive culture and climate.
According to ASCD:
School culture refers to the way teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share. A positive school culture and school climate promote students' ability to learn.
School climate refers to the school's effects on students, including teaching practices; diversity; and the relationships among administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
Based on these definitions, it is crucial that districts and buildings focus on ways to create a positive culture and climate if they want to make progress toward desired outcomes. Integrating SEL into a system is one way that districts and schools can ensure that they are being proactive when it comes to establishing and maintaining a positive culture and climate. There are many benefits to integrating SEL, and here are three specific ways it supports a positive culture and climate:
1. SEL strengthens student and staff well-being
The state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy is our well-being. Districts and schools that focus on student and staff SEL work toward supporting their overall well-being. For example, when schools adopt and live out their missions and values aligned with SEL, it sends a message that the process of developing our relationship with ourselves and others is at the core of the goals. Furthermore, it encourages a growth mindset about our capabilities in that it becomes something to consistently work at over time. Ensuring that staff and students work on SEL skills provides individuals who are more adept when facing challenges, and more effective in collaborating with others.
2. SEL supports positive relationships
At its foundation, SEL is about the relationship we have with ourselves and with others. When schools adopt an approach to integrating SEL into their work, staff and students get the opportunity to develop intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship skills. For example, districts and schools that deploy strategies that support self-awareness and self-management create an environment that encourages exploring individual strengths and areas for growth as it relates to understanding ourselves. This facilitates a positive relationship with ourselves as we learn more about how we are impacted by the world around us and develop strategies to cope with a variety of scenarios. Furthermore, districts and schools that apply strategies for facilitating social awareness and relationship skills develop an environment focused on supporting healthy collaboration. These strategies focus on developing our relationships with others that include trust, respect, acceptance, and reflection.
Schools and districts that apply strategies for facilitating social awareness and relationship skills develop an environment focused on supporting healthy collaboration. (Tweet this)
3. SEL values the collective and the individual
School culture and climate often references and highlights the importance of collaboration. While the collective efforts are important to the creation and sustainability of a positive culture and climate, it must also consider the individual. We all have unique experiences that impact the way we interact with people and ideas in this world. In order to work effectively together, it is important that we understand and work on ourselves. Schools and districts that create a space for self-reflection through SEL naturally support our relationship with ourselves. For example, districts and schools might carve out time for reflection strategies so that individuals can make sense of and process their experiences. Furthermore, both self-awareness and self-management are inherently personal. These skill sets support individuals with becoming more in tune with their needs. This will lead to more well-regulated individuals who are ready to contribute, positively, in collaborative cultures.
Schools and districts that create a space for self-reflection through SEL naturally support our relationship with ourselves. (Tweet this)
As we close this series, we wanted to bring us back to the why of this work. Integrating SEL into current educational systems has far-reaching benefits that may not be immediately recognizable. However, staying the course and working toward long-term integration will have huge pay-offs for the culture and climate within a system for both the one and the many.