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Social Emotional Learning: Serving the Whole Child

Educational Support Services

Anne Stone

Program Director, Induction Programs

Across California, many educational organizations are bringing coherence to the concepts inherent to the social and emotional wellbeing of our students. Although the new term “Social Emotional Learning” is commonly used, this is neither a new idea, nor a new focus. Rather, it is a way to revisit all of the ways in which we already address social learning and the emotional safety and support we offer our students.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines this focus as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to:

  • understand and manage emotionsSocial and Emotional Learning Wheel
  • set and achieve positive goals
  • feel and show empathy for others
  • establish and maintain positive relationships
  • make positive decisions

CASEL promotes this work through the lens of five guiding principles:

  • Adopt whole child development as the goal of education, using a systems approach
  • Commit to equity, beginning with building upon existing strengths
  • Build capacity, focusing on relationship-centered learning
  • Partner with families and communities, expanding existing structures and relationships
  • Learn and improve, using continuous improvement practices

Some districts and/or sites in our county are implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), intentionally aligning resources to serve the whole child. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an integral component of those efforts in combination with Academic and Behavioral Interventions.

It may seem like a stretch, but consider the words of a well-known horse-whisperer, Ray Hurst, ”If you are going to teach something and have a good relationship, you don’t make them learn it – you let them learn it.” In a culture with a strong emphasis social and emotional wellbeing, the thought can be applied to our classrooms.

For more information regarding the work of CASEL, visit

Anne Stone, Ed.D.
Program Director, Induction
Educational Support Services Department
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education

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