Earlier in the semester I presented my students with a list of behaviors of learners. The list included things like "uses materials appropriately", "follows schedules" and "problem solves". We reviewed and critiqued the list as a way to be reflective about the class.
In reflecting on that lesson I realized that a few of the behaviors listed had anything to do with Social Emotional Learning, but those not explicitly. I wondered if I was building a culture that promoted empathetic learning and emotional management, but more broadly whether or not our school held those values for both staff and students.
This week I had conversations with colleagues centered mostly around conflict resolution. I asked them who they spoke with on campus when they felt frustrated or proud or needed help developing a relationship with a colleague. Mostly I discovered an informal network of supportive coworkers and not someone with a specific role related to SEL development.
Our school environment is built around what I have recognized as some tenants of SEL, such as decision making and self-management, though I haven't found structures which emphasize or promote things like social awareness or relationship skills. As a result our staff and student body are well able to work unsupervised and manage their time, though there is inconsistency in self awareness and relationship. Before one can develop a skill it must be named, so perhaps there should be one within our community who makes those skills which we can improve obvious and clear.
As a staff we do not deliberately spend time developing SEL skills. Its hard to say how this effects us because I generally feel that our staff is amiable and cooperative, though SEL is more than that. If we were to model for our students what it is like to collaborate and work from a place of developed social emotional ability, I wonder what changes might happen in our student body.
Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.