YHC hosted Margaret Hannah and Dr. Nadja Reilly, of William James College Freedman Center, and their presentation on “Social Emotional Learning: A Systemic Approach”. Ms. Hannah and Dr. Reilly bring years of professional research and pragmatic experience to the topic. SEL is a very current hot topic for many school districts. Understanding it as a broad based concept is critical to insuring it has sustained, positive impact for students, faculty, parents and whole communities.

They defined SEL as a process, with the goal to help both students and adults develop lifelong skills necessary for successfully learning to manage themselves and relationships. It is not a disparate composite of programs and activities, but rather a concept of leadership, stakeholder buy in, and defined vision. This, along with readiness, allows for integrating efforts to facilitate positive learning environments for students in which they can thrive and learn. They framed it as a developmental model, not silo based, but one in which the work belongs to everyone, schools and community.

Commitment to Social Emotional Learning is a prerequisite, starting with top leadership and building broad based community engagement to the process. Ms. Hannah and Dr. Reilly, who work at William James College, quoted William James, “To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.”

I believe creating true positive Social Emotional Learning environments is one of the most important things we must do today in education. SEL can become the “Integrative Glue” that ties together initiatives with climate and culture that supports students and communities together. We know the research documents that students who feel understood, accepted, supported, safe, respected, connected, learn better, perform better and move on developmentally stronger.

Be bold, open the dialog, start conversations about SEL as a community and school based understanding and process.