Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process of developing students’ and adults’ knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that they need to make successful choices. And it has been in schools longer than it has had an official title.

The term SEL was coined in the mid-1990s, but “for as long as public schools have been around, public school educators have worked with the whole child to make sure that the child felt safe, secure and ready to learn,” said Michigan Education Association (MEA) President Paula Herbart.

During a pandemic that isolated children and left over 3,000 children in Michigan grieving a primary caregiver — with Black children accounting for 40% of impacted kids — state and education leaders emphasize that the need for social and emotional learning in schools is greater now than it ever has been.

“It’s such a powerful thing for us as individuals to be able to identify and understand our own emotions, but then to also understand what are our options and what we can do with them in our relationships,” said state Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.), who also is a clinical psychologist. “These are really important life skills that we use as adults. It makes good sense to integrate this in schools, because there are lots of places where we talk about life skills, and this is just another life skill. This is important to be able to have successful future generations.”

The pandemic has especially affected young people and their social and emotional well-being.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one study conducted by Detroit Public Schools Community District in collaboration with the University of Michigan Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students  (TRAILS) program and Youth Policy Lab, found that more than half of student respondents in DPSCD had experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Read the full article about social and emotional learning by Allison Donahue and Michigan Advance at The 74.