The Continued Importance of Social-Emotional Learning


At SEL Dallas, social-emotional learning is what we do. We know how critical SEL skills are in school, work and life, and our mission is to foster collaborative communities that promote social and emotional development through in-school and out-of-school programs.

Over the past year, as we’ve dealt with school closings, virtual learning and the resumption of in-person instruction, social-emotional learning has been in the spotlight more than ever before. Here’s how SEL has helped us navigate the past year and how it will continue to play a crucial role moving forward.

Using social-emotional learning as a foundation

As COVID-19 reshaped our lives, focusing on youth’s emotional well-being became an immediate priority. With school shifting to a virtual format, many students were isolated from friends and teachers as they dealt with the effects of the pandemic. 

SEL helped us form connections during this difficult time and provided ways to support students’ emotional well-being through things such as mindfulness activities and regular check-ins. SEL also gave families tools to help their children at home. 

Moving forward, mental health will continue to be a top priority as schools adjust to in-person or hybrid learning. SEL strategies can help students cope with the trauma of the past year. Each of the five core competencies of SEL — self-management, self-awareness, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness — has helped us all navigate the stressors and difficulties of this time. In its Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Roadmap for Reopening School, CASEL wrote, “To rebuild thriving schools, we need to prioritize safe, supportive, culturally sustaining, and equitable learning environments that promote the social and emotional competencies of both students and adults.”

As we prepare for the next school year, SEL should continue to serve as the foundation and remain a priority for social-emotional wellness and academic growth. This is something that the Department of Education has recognized, naming it as a main focus in reopening. 

SEL Dallas resources and curriculum guide

As we look toward next year, SEL Dallas’s Out of School Time Curriculum Guide can be a useful tool to help plan the academic year. This 35-week guide is broken up into 16 thematic units, each of which enhances SEL understanding and acquisition. The units focus on everything from problem-solving and communication to confidence and initiative. 

Within each unit you’ll find an overview and integration page, skill-building through literacy connections, skill-building through creative exploration and skill practice through movement and play. Learn more about how to use the guide

SEL Dallas also has a variety of resources available to help families incorporate social-emotional learning at home, from outdoor SEL scavenger hunts to ideas for practicing self-care. There are also a wealth of summer activities, from Dallas City of Learning programming to the Smart Summer Reading Program, that can help promote SEL skills. 

We know that this past year has been challenging for everyone, and we hope to be a resource as we prepare for the 2021-22 school year.