As the ECE industry adjusts to the uncertainty of life after 2020, there's one question everyone's asking: what happens next?
For many preschools, going back to business as usual isn't an option. Instead, they’re having to change childcare management practices to adapt to a whole new age.
That includes a huge list of challenges ECE directors have to face, from school closures and uncertain reopenings to an ongoing social justice crisis and the need for diverse classrooms.
The only option for preschools and early learning centers is to adapt. But there’s a crucial difference between adapting to survive and adapting to thrive.
Whenever a new challenge arises, most early childhood education businesses race to create new systems without having the time to ensure they’re the best they can be. But as we settle into the new normal, it’s now time to take those processes to the next level.
In this no-fluff handbook, we’ll help you uplevel your child care center operations, covering everything from modern working practices to the latest teacher support programs, so that every one of your new systems works like a dream.
Let’s do this!
What is social-emotional learning?
Social-emotional learning is the process of building self-management, social awareness, and interpersonal skills to successfully guide you through school, life, and work.
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the 5 core skills of SEL are:
- Self-awareness: The ability to understand your own thoughts and feelings is at the heart of SEL—because once you know how emotions impact behavior, you can learn to regulate them.
Self-awareness skills include: Assessment of strengths and weaknesses, Meditation, Goal setting.
- Self-management: Everyone responds differently to different situations—but self-management helps you respond with a clear head every time.
Self-management skills include: Stress-management, Impulse control, Self-motivation.
- Responsible decision-making: This one’s all about making respectful and safe choices about your behavior dependent on the situation and the people around you.
Responsible decision-making skills include: Analysis of a situation or environment, Empathy.
- Social awareness: The ability to empathize and connect with people from diverse backgrounds is a vital skill for all ages.
Social awareness skills include: Assessment of social and ethical community needs, Family and school resources and support.
- Interpersonal skills: Great relationship skills are the basis of a healthy community and help individuals navigate their way through school, life, and work.
Interpersonal skills include: Communication skills, Active listening, Conflict mediation.
Why is social-emotional learning important?
SEL is not a new topic—in fact, it’s been around for over two decades.
So why is it suddenly getting so much attention? Two words: It works.
According to experts:
- You can expect an estimated $11 returned for each $1 invested in SEL.
- SEL taught in kindergarten impacts children into adulthood. It decreases the need for public housing and public assistance, and has a positive impact on alcohol and drug dependency.
- SEL = academic success, and improves achievement by an 11-percentile-point gain.
And given the recent pandemic, the SEL buzz is unsurprising.
Bevin Reinen, inspiring Founder of Teach. Train. Love. explains why the future of learning is all about SEL:
“We have all experienced [the coronavirus] crisis. Social-emotional learning and self-care strategies for students, parents, and educators are integral in laying a solid foundation for learning. We must nurture each other's emotional health and well-being needs first before we can even begin to think about addressing academic deficits. SEL matters more now than ever.”
How to implement SEL: Focus on systemic processes
It’s no secret SEL is great for communities.
From increasing empathy to building confidence, it’s clear there are tons of positive outcomes—but how does it work?
According to CASEL, there are seven steps to building SEL into your processes.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Develop a shared SEL vision: To create a bold SEL plan that sticks, start with getting the whole team on board. Create a vision for success and include all stakeholders in the process. Note: many districts now have district-wide SEL visions, which you can use to direct your goals.
- Check your inventory: Before investing in tons of SEL-related resources, take a look at your existing programs. Do they check your SEL boxes? Build on your strengths and get rid of any ineffective programs.
- Create an implementation plan: Once you’ve got your vision in place, it’s time to develop a multi-year plan to show exactly how you’ll achieve it—and don’t forget to monitor your progress.
- Offer professional development: Only 29% of teachers say they receive ongoing SEL training. To practice what they preach, teachers need professional development opportunities built into the overall SEL plan.
- Focus on evidence-based SEL programs: There are plenty of revolutionary SEL programs out there (just check out our resources section below!), and it’s time for you to choose one or more to suit your needs. The ideal program will guide employees, support skill development and establish solid processes, to lead you to SEL success.
- Integrate SEL into larger school policies: It’s time to think outside the classroom. How can you integrate your SEL program with key initiatives, curriculum and policies?
- Use data to improve your practice: Introducing SEL systematically is a process that won’t be done overnight. Use data to figure out how your SEL program affects children, families and employees, and knuckle down on any pinch points.
15 SEL resources to help you get started
From classroom activities to full SEL programs, these resources are a great place to start your SEL journey.
ECE social-emotional learning activities
- To embed SEL activities into everyday routines:
Book Nook guides, from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning,
- To help all ages navigate their emotions:
50 Must-Have Picture Books to Teach Social Emotional Skills, from We are Teachers
- To understand what’s going on under the surface:
Downloadable Feelings Gauge: Easily Identify Feelings with an Emotion Scale, from Counselor Keri
- To introduce SEL into any lesson:
100+ Social Skills Activities for Preschoolers, from Kiddie Matters
- For regular SEL materials straight to your inbox:
Social Emotional Workshop Toolbox, from Social Emotional Workshop
Social-emotional learning programs for preschool
- HighScope Educational Approach for Preschool
HighScope offers curriculums, assessments and professional learning opportunities aimed at closing the opportunity gap through high-quality early childhood education.
- Tools of the Mind
Tools of the Mind offers a toolkit for ECE pros to help develop the social and emotional skills of their students and ensure every child becomes a successful learner.
- PATHS Program
Aimed at Pre-K to Grade 5, PATHS provides evidence-based SEL programs for a safer and more positive learning environment.
- I Can Problem Solve
An evidence-based program that helps children age 4+ with perspective-taking, alternative solutions and consequential thinking.
- The Incredible Years Series
With 30+ years of clinically proven research, the Incredible Years Series offers social emotional learning programs for parents, teachers and children.
Other SEL resources
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning: CASEL is the USA authority on all things SEL.
- CASEL Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs: This guide details exactly what the top SEL programs have to offer.
- NAEYC social emotional learning pages: The National Association for the Education of Young Children offer a wealth of up-to-date SEL info and resources.
- Zero to Three Parents Guide to SEL: A quick rundown for parents wondering where to start.
Great SEL = Great opportunities
Social emotional learning is the future.
From encouraging children to be more conscious citizens, to building a culture of support within your ECE business, there are a million and one reasons why SEL is more important now than ever.
It’s up to you as an ECE leader to implement these changes—but you’re not alone. 👫
The ECE community (including our team here at MomentPath) is behind you, and—for the children, families and employees we serve—it’s up to us to embrace SEL with everything we’ve got.
“We have to expand our thinking beyond the child and recognize the social-emotional support we need to provide has to extend to everyone,” says Cindy Terebush, “When children, families, staff and administrators feel safe and valued, the learning will follow.”
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