Whenever I tell people that I study social-emotional learning in schools I get an interesting range of reactions. Some people get it right away. Others immediately want to talk about this video or Daniel Goleman. But, I sometimes encounter a few people who say, “isn’t teaching social-emotional skills a parent’s job?” My answer starts with “yes, it definitely is, but…”
Reason 1: Kids spend a ton of time in school.
It is estimated that elementary school students in the U.S. spend an average of 943 hours in school per year. With all of this time spent in school it is just logical and practical to teach kids skills that they will need throughout their lives. Even if parents do take the time to model and teach skills like self-awareness, perspective-taking, and empathy is important to continue to reinforce these skills in schools and classrooms in order for them to really stick.
Reason 2: Schools are social and emotional environments.
Most children form their first friendships in school. It is also where they will likely experience social exclusion, bullying, and other interpersonal issues. At school, kids have to learn how to get along with those who are different from them. It is almost impossible to ignore these types of challenges and issues in schools and classrooms.
Reason 3: Social-emotional skills are necessary for academic learning.
Imagine trying to teach a classroom full of students who lack self-regulation, do not get along with others, and are not aware of their own emotions and the emotions of others. Social-emotional skills serve as a critical foundation for academic learning and studies have shown that social-emotional learning leads to gains academic achievement. Social-emotional learning and academic learning should go hand-in-hand.
Reason 4: Many children do not learn social-emotional skills at home.
If you are a parent reading this blog you most likely do teach your child social-emotional skills, either implicitly or explicitly. However, many parents, for various reasons, do not teach, model, or reinforce these skills at home. All children deserve the opportunity to learn how to manage their own emotions, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Schools are powerful settings because they have the ability to reach almost every child.