Photos: Students in Ferndale Public Schools, a 2019 Innovative District. (Courtesy of Ferndale Public Schools)
We often hear that social-emotional learning (SEL) encompasses the “soft skills” students need to develop. In Ferndale, we don’t believe they are the soft skills students need, but the essential skills. We know that when we focus on the whole child, teach social and emotional skills, and intentionally provide a safe, positive climate where our students feel more confident and accepted, teachers have more time to support learning and academic achievement increases.
Why We Prioritized SEL in Our Schools
In 2012, Ferndale Public Schools went through a restructuring process to provide equitable learning opportunities for all students. During this process, it was clear we had pockets of excellence around SEL but a fragmented approach from class to class and school to school. With this in mind, we set off to develop and implement an intentionally integrated approach to social, emotional, and academic development districtwide.
Our systematic districtwide plan is based on five key competencies:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision making
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) states that SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.