Part two of a two part-series. Read part one.

As more educators embrace the concept of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), some have found it difficult to incorporate it in the classroom because of time constraints, challenges with reaching all students, and logistics: “How do we teach perspective-taking during a fractions lesson?”

But “Learning Journeys” -- videos, stories, and lesson plans about unique people around the world -- have become a solution to these challenges faced by educators.

What is SEL?

SEL helps develop essential skills and competencies like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Evidence shows that when students develop their social and emotional skills, they not only become more empathetic and better at teamwork, they’re also more prepared for the rest of their lives, and perform better academically, too.

“By teaching empathy, kindness, tolerance, acceptance, and other SEL concepts explicitly, I have seen my students become more aware of the world around them,” said Julian Cortes, a Redmond, WA elementary school teacher and Washington State’s ASCD 2018 winner for Outstanding Young Educator. “I have seen students go out of their way to help others, and that has greatly impacted me.”

Storytelling is often associated with liberal arts classes, but SEL Learning Journeys are also being incorporated into many other topics, including math lessons.

“It sets the stage for students to engage in mathematical problem solving from a global perspective as well as for students to understand the feelings of others,” said Melissa Pearson, K-5 math supervisor at West Windsor-Plainsboro School District in New Jersey. “Teachers can focus in on a particular mathematics concept and see how students approach problem solving within an authentic context while also developing compassion and empathy.”

Students want to go beyond the story and the lessons “make math more human,” said Sue Totaro, supervisor for Curriculum and Instruction K-12 at West Windsor-Plainsboro School District.

How to Support SEL Educators

As SEL becomes more commonplace in the classroom, we must remember to support the educators who are using this teaching method. In addition to tools like Learning Journeys, Better World Ed is ensuring that teachers are prepared for complex conversations with their students.

“The Learning Journeys materials have given me a medium to have insightful conversations with students in the classroom that would otherwise never fit in the time crunch of the school day,” said Jaime Chapple, a third-grade teacher in Kirkland, WA. “Students want to know more about that individual and are starting to draw parallels between that person’s life and their own lives.”

As a donor, you can:

  • Learn: Talk with teachers in your community about the challenges they have faced in creating a deep sense of belonging, curiosity, and compassion among students in their classroom.
  • Connect: Gather local school leaders, PTA members, and students to discuss ways to bring equity-focused, inclusive SEL onto the agenda at school board meetings.
  • Take action: Sponsor a classroom, school, or district in your community.

We can bring SEL to life in every classroom and open our minds to new cultures, perspectives, and ways of life -- early in life, every day, and everywhere.