It’s hard to go a week without someone reminding us of the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL)—and with good reason. SEL is vital for our students’ emotional well-being and the development of healthy relationships and interpersonal skills. It’s also good for academic performance; CASEL found that students make an 11-point gain in overall achievement when teachers focus on SEL, which has also been linked to improved attendance and behavior.
Just like educators, many instructional coaches feel overwhelmed by one more thing they must fold into their coaching. Many of you might also feel frustrated that, too often, this SEL message comes without easy-to-apply coaching strategies.
As a former instructional coach and current consultant who works with educators to become instructional coaches, I have good news for coaches (and the teachers they coach) who are eager to incorporate SEL but feel at a loss on how to do so amid several other competing priorities. It might be simpler than it seems.
I have found that by folding SEL into instructional strategies teachers are already using and in areas with which they’re already familiar, SEL begins to feel less daunting. The same goes for coaches. Literacy is a powerful and lightweight channel through which to teach SEL. As a coach, it’s also one of the most high-impact entry points to SEL because all teachers, to some capacity, must be literacy teachers. All coaches, then, must know how to coach teachers toward rigorous and relevant, grade-level appropriate literacy instruction. SEL can then be seamlessly woven into the coaching you’re likely already doing and the teaching your teachers are also likely already doing.
Let’s look to some opportunities for how teachers can fold SEL into literacy instruction. In a paper on SEL from the Center on Great Teachers & Leaders, its authors listed several skills that feed CASEL’s five SEL core competencies. With those as a springboard, I will include what coaches can look for in teachers’ literacy instruction and students’ learning that indicates high-impact SEL learning. A selection of skills borrowed from the paper are in quotes, followed by what coaches can observe in instruction and learning that indicates learning of the skill through literacy.
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