• Dr. Emi Garzitto

Can You Teach Social Emotional Skills from a Box?


You cannot teach social emotional skills with just words, visuals, research and stellar lesson plans. You have to do the work. You need the body. You need to feel it. Experience it. Practice the skills to manage you, over and over and over again.


There are a dizzying number of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs for teachers, districts and and schools to help children learn and develop social emotional skills. There is good advice in all of the programs. Some provide great lesson plans, graphics, videos, animation and scenarios designed to engage children and adolescents.


But none of that matters if the adult is not actively modelling, engaging and practicing those skills every day.


Looking at good social skills, reading about it and even practicing it once in awhile won't cut it. You have to do the work. You need the body. You cannot teach social emotional skills with just words, visuals, research and stellar lesson plans. You need to feel it. Experience it. Practice the skills to manage you, over and over and over again.


My worry here is that these out of the box programs may appeal to the educators who struggle to do the hard work of managing their own social emotional skills. The programs can become a way of 'ticking all the boxes' without teachers having to engage their own bodies. Schools can claim a common SEL program used within their community and Districts can do the same.


We learn social emotional skills through role modelling, rehearsal and reinforcement. This has not changed. That is the formula. Add all the bells and whistles you want but at the end of the day, if you are not managing your uncomfortable feelings, if you are not allowing children to practice managing their uncomfortable feelings (and failing) and if you are not celebrating when they get it right - you are not teaching social emotional skills.


There are no shortcuts. We all have to help each other do the work, every day.

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