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The Importance of Adult SEL in Building Schoolwide SEL Culture

The Importance of Adult SEL in Building Schoolwide SEL Culture

In Jorge Valenzuela’s BAM! Radio podcast episode, “Why Growing Our Social-Emotional Classroom Skills Takes a Team Effort — Where to Start,” he discusses the importance of adult social-emotional learning (SEL) and examines how norm-setting and shared agreements are a valuable part of establishing an SEL-focused school culture. He is joined by Jen Perry, SEL expert and learning designer at Edmentum, and Myla Lee, instructional coach for Novi Community School District in Michigan, and consultant for literacy, technology integration, and project-based learning. Jorge explains that building SEL skills as adults, or learning more deeply and explicitly about SEL, is not work educators can do as “lead learners”this is deep, internal work that is a necessary part of creating SEL-focused communities.  Let’s keep this conversation going by exploring some related ideas about the importance of adult SEL as a school culture cornerstone.

Having adults knowledgeable of the tools in their SEL backpack sets a strong foundation for a schoolwide culture embodying SEL skills. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) agrees that a focus on adult SEL is an important indicator of quality schoolwide SEL implementation. Effectiveness depends on how well the school community works together to facilitate SEL instruction, foster a positive school community, and model social-emotional competence. This means that schools would benefit from focusing on adults’ professional growth as educators, as well as their social-emotional learning because schools are more effective at teaching and reinforcing SEL for students when they also cultivate SEL competencies in adults.

Part of focusing on adult SEL, as Jorge discusses in the episode, is collaboration. This refers to creating opportunities for staff to learn about and strengthen SEL professional skills and their own social-emotional competence, creating structures that foster trust and collaboration among staff, and identifying ways to explicitly model SEL in interactions. These opportunities could be professional learning communities (PLCs), shared staff agreements, or peer mentoring. Social-emotional learning is a process and a continuum, and it is dynamic and personal. Creating the same safe spaces for adults as we create for students will yield a more integrated and comprehensive SEL schoolwide implementation plan.

According to the National Association of Elementary School Principals, teachers who learn and assimilate social-emotional competencies are more likely to stay in the classroom longer and less likely to suffer from burnout. These teachers successfully navigate school days and avoid burnout because they know how to regulate their own emotions and can manage behavior in their classrooms. These adults serve as behavioral role models for children and develop nurturing relationships that benefit students.

As your schoolwide implementation takes shape, consider BASE Education’s educator professional development (PD) suite, presented by Edmentum, to help educators develop their own SEL practices and improve school SEL culture and climate. This PD course collection will help educators understand SEL, identify their own triggers and growth areas, and put what they’ve learned into practice in the classroom. Educators can flexibly complete courses independently or utilize facilitator guides for whole-group delivery and discussion.

The five-part series offers:

  • What Is SEL – The Basics
  • Breaking Down Elements of SEL Through an Educator Lens
  • Understanding Your Backpack
  • Leading with Your Core Values
  • Suicide Awareness and Prevention for Educators

Utilizing this powerful PD series will help drive recognition and self-awareness, allowing educators to better understand themselves and the impact they have on the learning environment and the students they serve and encouraging positive change for a more social-emotionally driven approach to teaching and learning.

Schoolwide SEL implementation should intentionally nurture a work environment in which staff feel supported, empowered, allowed to collaborate effectively and build relational trust, and nurtured to develop their social-emotional skills. Learn more about BASE Education’s educator PD suite and about implementing your own SEL skills professionally in our blog post, [Admin Tips] Navigating Change and the Role of Emotions.'s picture
Sian Reilly

Sian joined Edmentum in 2019 and serves as a Senior Marketing Specialist. A former teacher and administrator, Sian believes that individualizing education for the whole learner with quality academic and non-academic curriculum and assessment can powerfully transform students, campuses, and communities. Sian is passionate about connecting educators with content to meet their specific needs in an ever-evolving education environment.