Supporting Social-Emotional Development with Self-Awareness and Self-Management - Digital Promise

Supporting Social-Emotional Development with Self-Awareness and Self-Management

Group of young children sitting around a desk working collaboratively

January 25, 2022 | By and

Key Ideas
  • Social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies can be leveraged to develop justice-oriented, global citizens, and nurture inclusive school and district communities.
  • It is necessary for schools to support students’ social-emotional development alongside curriculum, nutrition, and connectivity.
  • Self-awareness and self-management can help schools, parents, and teachers support students with managing their stress.

Any goal is often seen as a destination to arrive at or objective to attain. In many ways the journey toward achieving the goal requires learning and practicing competencies. Students in classrooms across the world need to thrive academically and personally—the goal. The journey to get them to that goal is a thorough journey into and through social-emotional learning (SEL). As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

SEL competencies can promote greater understanding of different cultures and power dynamics, and support students and adults in building relationships and interacting with others across diverse backgrounds. In this way, SEL competencies can be leveraged to develop justice-oriented, global citizens, and nurture inclusive school and district communities.

Social-emotional learning is a vital part of human development and a critical skill to develop in everyone. Skills such as collaboration, trust, empathy, and self-evaluation are some of these critical skills that are developed when a specific focus on SEL is present in classrooms. Building empathy and self-evaluation in students is more important than in previous generations of classrooms. Online learning, with all the benefits it brings students, has pitfalls too. About 15 percent of students between the ages of 12-18 are being bullied online. SEL in schools has shown to be an effective component in comprehensive bullying prevention interventions and reduces all types of bullying, not just online, by 51 percent1.

Two major competencies in the CASEL SEL framework are self-awareness (understanding one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values) and self-management (ability to manage one’s own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors). How can schools, parents, and teachers support each student with managing their stress? Two strategies are especially critical for emotion regulation, particularly during these unprecedented times:

Write down individual stressors and strategies for overcoming them.

Pause and ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” Label the emotion (i.e., anxious, furious, worried, concerned, etc.). If you are unable to identify the emotion, consider referencing Dr. Marc Brackett’s Mood Meter to build your emotional vocabulary.

Then create a list of strategies to help self-regulate under-desired emotions. For instance, Turnaround for Children’s Emotional Response Strategy List instructs one to use a planner to think about the emotions you expect to feel throughout the day by creating a T-Chart with two columns like the one below:

Example of chart used to help students express how they feel

By creating a list of undesirable and expected emotions paired with strategies, it inadvertently restores our energy to a state of calm with the use of emotion regulation strategies.

Utilize breathing techniques to help regulate emotions.

Research has shown that focusing on the breath can have positive effects on our body and mind. Try these breathing techniques to support stress reduction:

  • I AM CALM: You will breathe normally. As you inhale, silently repeat the words, “I am,” and as you exhale, silently repeat the word, “calm.”
  • Seated Mountain: Sit with feet flat, spine straightened. Gently tighten your stomach and back muscles. Relax your shoulders down and back. Hold your chin level to the floor. Look at one spot in front of you. Stretch your arms straight over your head with your palms facing each other. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Feel your spine getting taller. Slowly lower your arms. Breathe normally, notice how you feel, open your eyes.
  • Sniffing Breath: You will inhale through your nose for three short breaths (“sniffs”) until your lungs are full. Exhale with one long “haa” through your mouth.

Consider focusing parts of your day or class period on SEL competencies. Take 10 minutes once or twice a week to focus specifically on building community, deepening relationships, strengthening trust and social awareness, demonstrating empathy, and fostering mutual respect for the people in your school, classroom, or community. Leverage a protocol like the Rose, Thorn, Bud activity to help generate conversation and reflect on what is happening in the classroom.

With all of the concerns in the world right now, it is extremely important to allow for a focus on social-emotional learning.
Brendan Walmer
Verizon Innovative Learning Schools coach, Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School
Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City has even included the implementation of SEL practices in the school’s mission statement. Every day during the morning announcements, the school’s principal shares one of the five SEL competencies for the month, along with examples of how to demonstrate this competency during the school day. Moreover, 30 minutes of each school day are directly focused on SEL through a class circle discussion.

“With all of the concerns in the world right now, it is extremely important to allow for a focus on social-emotional learning,” said Brendan Walmer, the school’s Verizon Innovative Learning Schools coach. “Teachers have been granted the freedom to allow that learning to be a focus of their day as needed, because once the students’ emotional states can be regulated better, their academic learning can improve at a greater rate.”

Schools across the world are looking for the best ways to support kids in all areas of their lives. The primary goal is academics, and before that goal is achieved many foundational components of a child must be bolstered. Alongside curriculum, nutrition, and connectivity, educators need to support students’ social-emotional development.

Learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools initiative at

  1. Brian H. Smith & Sabina Low (2013) The Role of Social-Emotional Learning In Bullying Prevention Efforts, Theory Into Practice, 52:4, 280-287, DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2013.829731

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