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Social Emotional Skills for Teachers That Help Them Better Engage Students

A group of young students working well together on a school project with their teacher.Education experts no longer measure a student’s academic success solely on mastery of traditional subjects such as math and science. Teachers now recognize the importance of holistic development, including the significance of social-emotional learning. Social emotional skills for teachers are critical for success in the classroom and life. These skills include emotional intelligence, active listening, effective communication, empathy and compassion.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) entails managing emotions and developing empathy. SEL helps students develop positive relationships and healthy identities, achieve personal and collective goals and make responsible decisions.

Teachers can take professional development courses in SEL to learn the best practices for engaging students in their social and emotional development. By understanding social emotional skills for teachers, educators enhance their ability to help students develop critical SEL skills that last far beyond the classroom.

What Social Emotional Skills for Teachers Are Important?

Quality SEL teaching requires teachers to have a range of essential skills. Perhaps most importantly, they must increase their emotional intelligence, which involves awareness and regulation of their emotions. Teachers can meaningfully help students by modeling healthy emotional responses and behaviors.

Active listening is also critical for teachers in all areas, including SEL. The skill allows teachers to understand their students on a deeper level, making them better able to meet each student’s needs and concerns. They must also practice clear, effective communication that fosters meaningful relationships and resolves classroom conflicts.

Most teachers already have a high level of empathy and compassion, both of which are essential qualities to connect with students on an emotional level. By demonstrating these traits in the classroom, teachers validate students' experiences, build trust and create a safe space for emotional expression and growth.

Today’s diverse classrooms also require cultural competence to promote inclusive learning environments. Teachers must understand and appreciate diverse cultural backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.

Teachers Must Also Apply SEL to Themselves

The skills teachers employ to engage their students also help them manage their emotional awareness and its impact in the classroom. Their social-emotional competence and well-being can strongly influence their students.

As noted by Edutopia, “Teachers who are calm, positive, and content are more likely better equipped for treating students warmly and sensitively, even when students behave in challenging ways.”

Mental Health America also offers teachers some ideas on how to promote an SEL-positive class. They include creating opportunities for students to work as partners, nurturing a “culture of kindness” and building a strong SEL vocabulary beyond happy, mad and sad. Words like “frustrated” can give even the youngest student a more precise word to describe their feelings.

Fresno Pacific University’s SEL Courses For Educators

As part of its catalog of continuing education courses for educators, Fresno Pacific University offers individual SEL courses and a Social Emotional Learning Certificate. Earning the certificate requires teachers to complete the required course, Whole Student Education for Social Emotional Learning, in addition to four elective courses.

The certificate and SEL courses are 100% online, allowing teachers to earn professional development credit and expand their skills on their schedules. They learn to create safe and supportive classroom environments using evidence-based and age-appropriate strategies.

Completing an SEL course helps teachers acquire the social emotional learning skills needed to succeed in this vital area of education and helps them better understand and manage their emotions. Both help teachers to become better at working in SEL with students, families and the larger educational community.

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