How I Discovered Social-Emotional Learning

After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I was applying for grad programs and wanted to get some experience working with a professor on a research project. I knew that I was interested in child psychology but wasn’t sure exactly what specific area of child psychology I wanted to pursue. Through a family friend, I was introduced to a researcher at York University in Toronto. She was looking for a research assistant to help with her study evaluating the outcomes of a social-emotional learning program called The Roots of Empathy.

In The Roots of Empathy program, a mother and baby make visits to an elementary classroom once a month throughout a school year. With the help of a trained instructor, and an extensive curriculum, the baby is used as a springboard to teach the children about emotions, empathy, perspective taking, and infant development.

This program made complete sense to me. Not only did I think that bringing a baby into the classroom was genius, but I also became aware of the benefits of teaching social and emotional skills in school. Emotional intelligence, self-awareness, social-awareness, and relationship skills are all critical life skills. With all the time that children spend in school, shouldn’t we be promoting competencies that will contribute to their overall positive development?

These questions led me to a graduate program that was focused on social-emotional learning and development and gave me the opportunity to work with some of the leading professors in this field. I have spent the past four years studying whether these social-emotional learning programs do what they say they do and also investigating other ways that social-emotional skills can be promoted in childhood and adolescence. Seeing the importance of social-emotional skills, through my own experiences working with children and through research, has added to my passion for social-emotional learning and my desire to share its importance with other researchers, educators, parents, camp counselors, and anyone else who works with children.

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