Imagine for a moment that you’re headed out on a Caribbean cruise. Before the ship leaves the dock, you and the other passengers must attend a short presentation regarding safety procedures, including how to put on a life jacket. Once you know where to find your own life jacket and how to put it on in an emergency, you’re all set for a successful cruise.
Now, let’s extend that analogy into the classroom. To set children up for success, we must equip them with the right tools ahead of time (like a life jacket) instead of waiting for a crisis to occur (like throwing a life-ring when someone is already in the water). One of the best ways to do this is through Social Emotional Learning, or SEL. SEL is the intentional emphasis on teaching qualities like self-awareness, empathy, peaceful problem solving, and self-regulation, which over time help create consistent behavioral gains.
Teaching SEL Through PBIS
While academic achievement may garner the larger share of today’s educational focus, SEL is equally important. In fact, SEL in the classroom can positively impact academic outcomes. For those schools using PBIS, teaching SEL can be effortless.
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a multi-tiered framework focused on prevention and instruction. Each school must identify the behavior expectations they want to develop among its students. Ideally, this is a short list of three to five behaviors. As the school identifies these core values, it also decides how those values might look in a variety of settings. For example, showing respect might mean that a student raises his hand in the classroom, follows rules on the playground, and uses table manners in the cafeteria.
To boil it down to its simplest terms, aligning the philosophy (SEL) with an action plan (PBIS) will make a significant impact on both students and school. For example:
What: We have a belief that being prepared is important to our students’ lives.
How: Acknowledging students bringing the required materials to their classes reflects the schoolwide expectation of responsibility.
Result: Such acknowledgment can help students build stronger organizational skills, which will impact their lives in the long term.
As the school moves through the instructional year, they consistently assess the effectiveness of their PBIS framework. This can include analysis of data such as office discipline referrals, teacher commitment to the program, attendance, and academic achievement. A consistent, regular SEL check-in can be an informative part of these assessments, as well.
Changing the Focus of Discipline
When used schoolwide, PBIS changes the focus of discipline from reactionary, punitive measures to preventative, positive interactions between students and staff. These positive interactions help students develop specific social and emotional competencies, which is the ultimate goal of SEL. A stronger relationship between the student and teacher creates a better learning environment for all students.