Okay, so I have to admit I had a real ‘aha’ moment today at the Learning and the Brain Conference. To some it may seem like a ‘duh’ moment instead ( I won’t fault you at all for thinking that!) but to me this represented a real shift in my thinking about SEL skills and how we teach them to kids. Here goes:

I was listening to Linda Lantieri, Director of The Inner Resilience Program and part of CASEL, speak about what it looks like, in real and practical ways, to put social and emotional skill acquisition into schools. She started talking about directly teaching SEL skills. I had my initial reaction to this which I always have which goes something like this, “Okay, okay, yes sometimes there’s no other way to teach it but come on, really? Is that how we really want to do it? Wouldn’t we rather strive to have SEL modeled all throughout our school or workplace? Make it something we don’t talk about, something we just alwasys do?”

And then it hit me. Wow! Of course there are very good reasons to teach the skills overtly. The first and foremost one is that it gets us all to TALK about them! What they are, why they are iimportant. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, it gives us a chance to PRACTICE them. This, too, is key! How can we expect anyone, I don’t care if you’re an adult or a child, to use these skills in the real world when the going gets tough and things get dicey if we haven’t practiced them in better, more ideal conditions? If we haven’t said the words out loud, gauged others’ reactions, practiced reading body language and gained confidence in ourselves and our abilities?

I know. See? Duh. But to me I had always envisioned that we were striving towards creating environments where these lessons weren’t necessary. Perhaps that’s still my dream but this seems like quite the practical way to get closer to that, especially when combined with that modeling, integrated approach I like so much. Using both approaches at the same time suddenly seems like a great idea to me. Hmmmm…

Alex Russell

Alex is a member of the Six Seconds EQ Network practicing and sharing emotional intelligence

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