It’s a Whole New World
Educators are coming to an understanding that developing academic skills in students at school are no longer enough. As the world continues to change, so do the demands on the skills that students must learn. Some people refer to these skills as 21st century learning skills that incorporate ideas such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, technology literacy, and the ability to problem solve. Intertwined with these skills is a rewed emphasis on developing skills related to a student’s social emotional learning (SEL). These skills range from being self-aware, managing your emotions, and working with others. These non-academic skills were once deemed not as important as academic skills, but that viewpoint is slowly diminishing and here’s why.
SEL Boosts Academic Achievement
An old African Proverb states, “When the fingers on the hand are fighting, they cannot pickup the food.” It eloquently states that more often than not, behavior can impact one’s ability to be successful either individually or as a team. SEL builds on this same concept as it seeks to emphasize non-academic skills as a foundation to helping students improve their academic skills. If a student cannot work well with others, manage stress, or regulate their emotions, this will hinder their ability to learn. SEL helps students develop skills that will help them in the long run as they learn about core content areas like math, science, and language arts.
SEL Improves Employability
Because our communities continue to become increasingly diverse and multicultural, so has the future workplace. Emphasis on communication and collaboration have never been higher, however more and more coworkers do not share common languages, values, or beliefs. For our students to survive in this new global economy, being able to listen to different ideas from co-workers and perform collaborative tasks are essential. Students need to be able to create and maintain relationships with diverse individuals and groups. The ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed will be mainstays of the future workplace. Our students need to be able to entertain various perspectives and empathize with others, especially with coworkers from diverse backgrounds and cultures. As students develop these skills, future employers will be ready to hire them.
SEL Helps Manage Negative Emotions
The world is extremely fast paced and with that pace can come stress and other negative emotions. If students can learn how to be able to recognize their own emotions and identify how they can influence their own behavior, then they will be at a distinct advantage over their peers that cannot. Students also need to be able to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors because this will not only impact their work but it will also impact their overall health. When students can develop project-management skills, goal setting and organization skills, and stress management skills, they will be able to successfully navigate stress and work towards developing a healthy body and healthy mind. Being able to effectively manage stress, control impulses, and work toward personal and academic goals are all skills that are developed when students participate in SEL.
SEL: A New Advantage
As knowledge becomes a commodity and employers care more and more about what their employees can do with information and how they can work with others, the need for socially and emotionally intelligent workers is reaching a peak. The more that SEL can be provided to our students now, then the more advantage they will have as our world shifts towards a global economy where a new set of skills is required to be successful. Workers with these skills will end up being better prepared to be the workforce of tomorrow as the world continues to change.
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