School Morningfuture
Guiding Best Practice 27 March Mar 2019 0730 27 March 2019

Social emotional learning, when feelings go to school

Participation in Sel programs improved pupils' academic performance by 11%. The socio-emotional approach, as shown in the programs of the "Move This World" project, makes the difference. At school, but also at work

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Let's start with some data: 82% of teenagers recognize that they suffer from medium to high stress levels during the school year, 46% of teachers feel exposed to high stress in their daily lives, and 64% of people have had at least an adverse experience (Adverse Childhood Experiences) within the age of 19.

Our emotional state conditions our whole life, is the engine of our every day, at work and at school, and influences our performance. School is often blamed for being too focused on the cognitive aspect of learning, putting the academic contents at the center of the programs, but neglecting how they should be taken in. Yet, the emotional side of studying is something that can make the difference: just think of the effectiveness with which a motivated and interested student is able to achieve good results, compared to a listless and understimulated classmate.

This is the reason behind the conversation around the Social emotional learning (Sel), and the need to place the emphasis on the need to put the emotional aspect on the same level as the cognitive one in learning. Learning to manage one's feelings, not only in terms of self-control, but also of self-awareness, ability to set goals and relate to others, are goals that the school should teach not only to impart content to students, but also to train young individuals with resilience and a sense of responsibility.

Participation in Sel programs improved pupils' academic performance by 11%

Thus, Sel is not simply embodied in a program or a package of lessons, but is a format that implies how to teach, aiming to build basic human skills to be able to move with greater awareness and security in studying, in relationships and ultimately in the world. The socio-emotional learning approach is divided into five different types of abilities, including the emotional sphere of the individual:
1) emotional awareness (i.e. knowing how to identify and recognize feelings);
2) emotional self-regulation (i.e. knowing how to regulate and control one's feelings);
3) the ability to make responsible decisions;
4) relational skills (communicating, cooperating, negotiating, lending and asking for help);
5) social awareness (i.e. empathy, respect for others and enhancement of diversity).

According to the philosophy of Sel, these skills can be exercised and learned at school throughout the school year. For example, the project Move This World, created in the United States by Sara Potler LaHayne, starts from schools, from kindergartens to high schools, and methods to create empathy, resilience and emotional management skills. Through simple daily exercises in the classroom, students can get closer, analyze and better understand their emotional state, balancing their attitudes according to the situations.

And what are some examples? At daycare it is enough to start the day with rhythmic music to train not only the ear and the sense of rhythm, but also to listen and the foster the ability to relate to others. In the first years of elementary school, then, one can "act " different emotions, inventing new expressions and imitating each other: a similar exercise favors not only the ability to identify and express emotions, but also the acquisition of awareness of himself. As you grow older, you can practice complimenting your classmates, reflecting and expressing what you appreciate about them. Thus, respect for the other and greater social awareness will be developed.

In middle school you can then share your moods and desires for the day in class in the morning, so as to stimulate relational skills, empathy and appreciation of what is different. While in high school it becomes important to actively reflect on one's goals and objectives, writing them down to think about how to implement them.

An example: you can create a page on Instagram where you can share photos that symbolize Dante's journey in the Divine Comedy in a modern way

The Move This World programs are designed and measured for different classes, schools and ages, but constitute a valid approach for any educational institution. Promoting socio-emotional learning, then, does not mean that this should remain separate from the contents that are actually transmitted to the school. Thus, for example, the humanities lend themselves effectively to the integration of a Sel approach directly into the contents. Consider, for example, the study of philosophy, literature but also of art, subjects that already in themselves stimulate reflection on the self, human nature and the sense of existence.

Thus, in a reading program you can stimulate the association of reading as a moment of pleasure, so you can relax outdoors or lie on cushions, and then share your thoughts on the novel in a sort of Improvised "book club" in the classroom, refining critical skills. Or for written productions, a collaborative approach can be promoted by writing a multi-hand text via cloud sharing software. Or you can use the theater to identify yourself with the characters of the Decameron, for example, by organizing a historical revival in costume, or you can create a page on Instagram where you can share photos that symbolize Dante's journey in the Divine Comedy.

In short, the simplicity of the approach is such that there is no reason not to start bringing young people closer to a socio-emotional learning. According to an analysis on case studies that have involved over 270 thousand students, participation in Sel programs improved pupils' academic performance by 11%, who also showed better school behaviors, a greater ability to manage stress and a more confident attitude towards themselves, towards others and towards the school. After all, these results are not surprising: if you really only learn what you love, school is the ideal place to foster love for knowledge. And thanks to the Sel we could really start thinking about school in different terms.

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