School districts are putting a strong focus on social-emotional learning (SEL). According to Education Week’s 2018 survey of 500+ district administrators, 90% of K-12 school district leaders have already invested in social-emotional learning products, or plan to do so.
This trend can be attributed to the fact that students who develop these skills are more likely to succeed, in and out of the classroom. Ninety-five percent of PK-12 teachers surveyed nationwide agreed that SEL is critical to student success in school, work, and life. And one large-scale study showed that students who understand and can manage their emotions earn higher grades and do better on standardized tests.
We know SEL can have a positive impact on student outcomes. But what about the success of teachers, staff, and other school leaders? Are we missing the mark when we don’t address their social and emotional needs?
What is Adult SEL?
Adult SEL, just like student SEL, promotes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. This approach contributes to a schoolwide SEL climate that is key to a holistic SEL implementation, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Providing teachers and school staff with the tools to develop SEL skills is important, but unfortunately it’s not yet the norm. A national survey revealed that four out of five teachers are interested in SEL professional training, yet only 55% have received it. This lack of training means teachers, who are likely incorporating SEL in their classrooms, may not fully understand the concepts themselves. In fact, only 20% of teachers surveyed reported that they felt fully prepared to teach social-emotional concepts.
Why Teachers & School Leaders Need SEL
It makes sense that in order for SEL to have the greatest impact on students, it must also be adopted by teachers. Additionally, in order for teachers to present their best selves to their classrooms and their students, it’s important that their personal needs are met and that they feel supported by their community.
It’s no secret that teaching can be a stressful profession, but new research suggests that an alarming 93% of educators experience high levels of job-related stress.
When teachers are stressed and are not equipped with skills and tools to manage this stress, students also suffer. Not surprisingly, the same study found that teachers in the high stress, high burnout, and low coping class were associated with the poorest student outcomes.
On the contrary, teachers with high social-emotional competence (SEC) can create a more positive learning environment with better student outcomes. Higher SEC in teachers can foster:
- Supportive teacher-student relationships
- More effective classroom management
- More effective implementation of SEL curriculum
How Simulation Training Can Raise Teachers’ Social-Emotional Competence
Professional learning is key to fostering buy-in that supports a schoolwide and districtwide SEL climate. Online simulation is an engaging training tool that uses interactive role-play to help users learn and practice valuable conversation skills. Through conversations with virtual humans, Kognito’s simulations teach educators valuable skills such as empathy, and can raise their social-emotional competence with skills like motivational interviewing.
For example, Kognito At-Risk simulations train educators to recognize warning signs of psychological distress, talk with someone, and make a referral to a counseling/treatment resource.
Oftentimes one side effect of learning skills to talk with students about trauma, mental health and other topics is applying those skills to oneself. When you are trained to recognize warning signs in others, you are more likely to reflect recognize them in yourself. Although we haven’t researched instructors specifically, we have seen that students who complete a simulation are significantly more likely to seek help for themselves.
There are also simulations designed to prepare school staff for special circumstances, such as coping with loss at school or a tragic incident. Resilient Together is a role-play simulation that prepares users to communicate with students and colleagues impacted by a death in the community. One learning objective of the simulation is to identify signs of compassion fatigue in colleagues and advocate for their self-care and support. These skills can also translate into applications for oneself.
Following Hurricane Harvey, UNICEF USA and MHA of Greater Houston partnered with Kognito to develop an interactive simulation to help educators better support students whose behavior might be related to trauma. In addition to learning communication skills to identify and help their students cope with trauma, Houston teachers received mindfulness training to address their own psychosocial needs.
What Educators Say After the Training
Three months after school staff members complete one of Kognito’s trainings, they are asked if they can recall a situation where they used the skills learned. Here are just a few responses shared:
“The simulation was a good reminder in how to respond when a student is in distress. I have used the skills learned to remain calm and supportive when a student was having a tantrum in my session.” – Educator who completed Trauma-Informed Practices for K12 Schools
“A student rushed through a test on the computer and I was able to be more compassionate and less judgmental, knowing that it was most likely a deeper issue. I have been also trying to not take misbehavior personally, though it is a challenge.” – Educator who completed Trauma-Informed Practices for K12 Schools
“I was able to put myself in the caregiver’s and child’s shoes, therefore allowing me to calm and center myself before reacting.” – Educator who completed At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators
“I take a moment now to take a deep breath to center myself.” – Educator who completed At-Risk for Early Childhood Educators
Bringing Adult SEL to Your District
Training your staff in social and emotional skills can help lead to better teacher and student outcomes. When teachers feel supported and show up as leaders in handling and responding to stress, they can create a more positive and supportive learning environment for students, as well as a better work environment for colleagues.
Ready to support and empower your teachers to present their best selves in the classroom? Try a demo of a Kognito simulation here.