Phillip Cantor, a science teacher at North-Grand High School in Chicago, recently penned an article for the Chicago Sun-Times about the success his public school has had by placing an emphasis on Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL. A SEL educational strategy involves teachers building strong relationships with their students and serving as mentors who focus on their kids' social and emotional needs. Special courses are set up to help students dealing with particularly toxic personal issues. It's been shown that culling these academic deterrents improves students' performance and reduces the bad behavior.
Cantor has seen those results firsthand. He explains that SEL has made a big difference in both his school's atmosphere and with the students' academic achievement:
"Our focus on social and emotional factors has helped us increase our number of freshmen on-track to graduate (a measure shown to be highly significant for future graduation) and helped reduced the serious discipline infractions that can lead to suspension. Our attendance rate is high and our test scores have been slowly but steadily improving. Most importantly, our school is a safe place where students and adults know that caring and learning are important."
A school that dedicates itself to SEL would need to put its teachers and staff through training courses to help them identify students most in need of assistance. They are tasked with keeping tabs on students' social and home lives in order to help guide their decision making. Additional focuses are placed on building empathy and establishing strong relationships.
Read Cantor's entire piece at Chicago Sun-Times for more about SEL
Also: SEL at CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning)
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