What is Social-Emotional Learning?
Betsy Briardy, Director of the Center for Girls and Middle School Faculty

What do we mean when we say “social-emotional learning” or SEL, and why is it so important? SEL at its heart is the skills that help us live a life of connection and meaning. CASEL, the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning, divides this concept into five interrelated areas of competencies. 

  1. Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts and values and how this impacts behaviors across situations. This includes the ability to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a sense of confidence and purpose.  
  2. Self-management means managing both emotions and behaviors in a wide context of situations and extends to the ability to set realistic goals and achieve them. 
  3. Social Awareness is perspective-taking and the ability to empathize with others.
  4. Responsible decision-making is the ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across a wide variety of situations. Relationship skills bring together the other four competencies.
  5. Healthy relationship skills are the ability to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships across diverse settings and groups.  

One of the reasons I like teaching at a Sacred Heart School is that social-emotional learning is central to our work and you see all the core competencies embedded in our Goals and Criteria. While the competencies are broad, there are discrete skills that can be taught within each area. However, SEL doesn’t lend itself well to a textbook, it involves practice. Fortunately, day-to-day life provides plenty of practice opportunities. Social-emotional learning is a life-long endeavor.