Intentionality: to act with purpose, and one of the most important aspects of SEL practitioners. SEL is based on the intention of teaching social and emotional skills. So it only makes sense that SEL4CT discusses what it means to bring intentionality to SEL, right? With that in mind, let’s get the discussion started.
Now it is important to practice SEL in any way possible, but practicing it with intentionality makes a world of difference for both practitioners and students. It’s great if you teach emotional vocabulary, but practicing using that vocabulary can help students recognize and vocalize their emotions – that is the difference that intentionality makes. TeachStone discusses the importance of bringing intentionality into SEL by reminding practitioner that without intentionality SEL can be lost by students. The authors make a great connection that we would never expect students to just “pick up” math by watching others use subtraction, addition, multiplication, and division in their daily lives such as paying bills and investing money. So why then, would we just expect students to “pick up” social emotional skills by watching their peers interact with others or their parents solve disputes? Practicing SEL without intentionality forces students to face difficult emotions on their own, problem solve social situations and peer pressure on their own, and create unhealthy coping skills.
However, for practitioners of SEL to be intentional in their work and for it to make an impact, there needs to be full buy-in by all educators. TeachStone and the University of Minnesota both explain how to bring intentionality to SEL in school systems; it cannot just be a brief weekly discussion. Intentional SEL practices need to occur daily in classrooms (regardless of the subject), after school activities, and even at home (yes, it’s okay to give SEL homework to students). By having all educators buy into SEL it will help students to better understand and practice their social and emotional skills. SEL is not a topic that can or should just be thrown around – as we all know and understand.
So how can we be more intentional in our SEL practices? Consider getting more training in SEL skills. The Committee for Children notes the importance for afterschool professionals to be properly trained in SEL so they can continue these lessons. SEL training also helps educators to provide a clear and more intentional way of adding SEL to their daily lesson plans and activities. We Are Teachers provides a list of activities to add SEL to your curriculum. One activity that is suggested is using group work to teach students how to communicate and work with others – take it a step further and pair them with a student that they don’t normally work with. Another great activity they suggest and we at SEL4CT have recently written about is doing a daily check-in with students – see our blog post on SEL Check-ins.
We hope this makes you think twice about how you plan on including SEL into your curriculum.