Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

How to Lead a School Toward SECD

  • April 9, 2017
  •    BY Joan Duffell (Contributor)

Joan Duffell is the Executive Director of the Committee for Children

The process principals use to lead SECD across the school community matters a lot. The community of people who will be doing the work each day (teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals) need to OWN the work. No matter how invested a district (or even a principal) is, when the classroom door shuts, the teachers will do what they believe is best for themselves and their students. Teachers and classified staff need to believe in this work if they are going to sustain it.

The steps below are consistently critical steps in the process from our experience at Committee for Children, working with thousands of schools. These steps are considered through an elementary school perspective. High school will be a completely different scenario and should be thought about very differently.

Step 1

Ask faculty’s opinion about bringing on an SECD program (the principal’s job is to get them to say YES—there are many ways to do this)—or if the district has already determined SECD needs to be happening, go straight to #2. If the principal goes straight to #2, they will share good reasons why SECD is needed in the district. This is a great time to ask if teachers in the school have implemented SECD programs before, and if so have them share their experience.

Step 2

Invite school staff to participate in a decision-making process in order to:

– Set up a site-based support team for SEL/SECD.

– Select a program(s) –from a list of evidence-based programs (or, if a program was already selected by the district, appoint a team to dive into the program and make a report back to their peers at a subsequent faculty meeting. Program providers should also be helpful in this process). Consider local/cultural needs of students, faculty, parents in the selection.

– Pilot selected program to get feedback from end users (teachers, counselor) –determine time frame for selecting a school-wide program (or, if district has already chosen, ask the district to share what they learned when they presumably piloted—important to share this so that people know that there has been some locally/culturally-based validation for the program).

– Select a program for school-wide implementation; establish the training, implementation, and assessment schedule for the whole school.Establish a framework describing how the SECD program integrates with and mutually supports other school-wide initiatives such as Restorative Practices, PBIS (some providers have these resources available).  Discuss ways to build in and integrate culturally-based content.

– Establish roles for SEL implementation: 

Principal: Visible, daily SECD leadership across the school:  Integrating SECD into school assemblies, morning announcements, faculty meetings, parent meetings, discipline referral practices (for students whose behavior lands them in the principal or asst. principal’s office). Principal and SECD coordinator should have training focused on SECD leadership and support.

SECD coordinator: Oversee, champion, coach, and support the work school-wide (riding shotgun with the principal, pardoning the term!)—this is not a new staff member (most schools cannot afford to hire someone additional) but someone the principal appoints from among the faculty—often the counselor or someone keen on SECD who also has the leadership skills to build momentum across the school community.

SECD measurement coordinator: Might be the SECD coordinator, might be the counselor—but someone should be focused on working with teachers to measure student SECD competencies.

Classroom teachers: Attend training, teach lessons with fidelity to program design or in the case of a program like Ripple Effects, be the wise guide on the side J; model SECD competencies in teaching practice (this will require some training too); integrate SECD into academic areas, PBIS, Restorative Practices, etc.; cue, coach & reinforce students’ use of skills in real life; communicate with parents.

Certified staff/specialists (music, art, computers, etc., if a school is lucky enough to have these folks): Provide training and ask them to develop ways to integrate SECD into their subject areas (some programs include these subject integration activities/ideas)—and at a minimum, cue and coach students to use SECD skills when issues arise in their classrooms.

Classified staff (lunchroom, playground supervisors, secretaries, bus drivers, etc.): provide training and simple tools that help them cue and coach students to use SECD skills when issues arise in their areas.

District level trainers/coaches: These can be very helpful supports to school-wide SECD, IF the school has put the foregoing into place.  We sometimes see districts with trainers who are good—but the school sites have not done their job of developing a process and structure for quality and sustained implementation so enthusiasm dies off when the trainer leaves (a la Alice’s example).

Program providers, trainers/implementation assistance staff and resources will be involved (often, providers’ implementation support teams work with district trainers and principals/site coordinators).

– Principal and SECD coordinator need to consistently and visibly lead from the SECD perspective. Faculty meetings can include check-ins on how SECD is going in classrooms, on the playground, with parent connections, etc. Principal should be asking teachers about SECD lesson activities in the course of their supervision, checking in with bus drivers and playground supervisors on a regular basis to see how the process is working for them (people rarely ask these folks their opinions—and they are often very keenly aware of what is and is not working)

– Assessment—best case, measures are implemented in the mid-fall, winter (teachers/counselors can use these data formatively), and in the spring (this interval is helpful to see how SECD is having an impact on students across the school from fall to spring).  Assessment can be a terrific motivational tool if used well—when teachers see that they are in fact moving the needle, they tend to be more motivated to keep the work going.  

Joan Duffell is the Executive Director of the Committee for Children. She can be reached at

    • April 9, 2017
  •    BY Joan Duffell (Contributor)
  •    Comment:0

Montville Township (NJ) High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance

  • March 7, 2017
  •    BY Catherine Lomauro (Contributor)

By Catherine Lomauro, Student Assistance Counselor, Montville Township (NJ) High School

Montville Township (New Jersey) High School’s Gay Straight Alliance was the subject of the School Spotlight presentation at the November School Support Network meeting at the College of Saint. Elizabeth ( The Gay-Straight Alliance provides a supportive, inclusive environment for students, and a safe space to ask questions and share experiences. Topics of discussion at Gay-Straight Alliance meetings have included practicing means of self-advocacy at school, at home, and in the world, sharing experiences of encountering bias and lack of understanding, discussing current events relevant to students’ experiences as part of the LGBT+ community, and sponsoring observances (including Ally Week and Day of Silence). Overall, the Gay-Straight Alliance provides students with a sense of belonging and connectedness – both to each other, and to the school community.

LGBT+ youth need support from faculty, staff, students, and administration as a foundational piece of their future success, both academically and personally. Being a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance helps students to combat internalized homophobia and transphobia, helping to create a more positive self-image. The Gay-Straight Alliance contributes to creating positive school climate, showing that schools can be a part of social change by ensuring that LGBT+ students’ feeling safe and protected is a critical priority for all facets of the school community. This is because doing so models for other students that LGBT+ classmates are their peers, worthy of respect and acceptance.

Words from students themselves illustrate the value of their involvement in the GSA . One student shared that, “GSA is important to me because we can learn from each other about what it means to be happy about ourselves.” Another student said that, “GSA means a lot to me because it is important to recognize the anxiety and fear that LGBT kids live with.” Other responses include that time spent with the GSA felt like a “relief” and that it can serve as a means to “bring important issues to light.”

Protecting LGBT+ students is a way to protect all students because it gives us an opportunity to model humanity, empathy, fairness, and tolerance to the community as a whole – a mission that the Gay-Straight Alliance shares and promotes at Montville Township High School. Now, more than ever, schools and communities must reaffirm their commitment to tolerance and inclusion, especially for LGBT+ students.

Catherine Lomauro is Faculty Advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance. For more information about Montville Township High Schools Gay Straight Alliance, please go to the webpage:


    • March 7, 2017
  •    BY Catherine Lomauro (Contributor)
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SEL Academy Recognized by CASEL as an Exemplary Program!

  • February 19, 2017
  •    BY William Trusheim, Ed.D. (Facilitator)

CASEL, working with teacher educators at the University of British Columbia, has published a report summarizing findings from their national scan of programs engaged in teacher preparation for SEL.  The Academy for SEL is named as an “exemplary program” in the report!  Exemplary programs are described on pages 58-59 of the report.  You can jump to the appropriate page from the Table of Contents.

Please find the full report at the link below…

    • February 19, 2017
  •    BY William Trusheim, Ed.D. (Facilitator)
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The World Has Changed, Why Haven’t Our Schools?

  • February 5, 2017
  •    BY Tara Laughlin, Ed.D. (Contributor)

By Tara Laughlin, Ed.D., Director of Curriculum at Pairin

Academic knowledge is so last century. It is widely recognized that students need more than this to be successful later in life, especially in our diverse, ever-changing global landscape. Many additional skills are necessary to build well-rounded individuals prepared for college and careers. Social and emotional skills make up one category of these essential skills, including attributes such as resiliency, stress management, empathy, social awareness, and self-confidence.

Incorporating social and emotional skills into the classroom is essential for many reasons. First, these skills provide a foundation on which academic success is built. Students trained in social and emotional skills had academic achievement scores which were an average of 11 percentile points higher than those who did not, according to a meta-analysis of 213 studies (Weissberg, et al., 2015). These students also tend to have better attitudes toward school and more positive relationships with peers and adults. In addition, there are numerous personal benefits such as lower instances of depression and stress along with reduced risk-taking and criminal behaviors. This is coupled with increased prosocial behavior as well as increased confidence, persistence, empathy, and more engaged citizenship.

There are also far-reaching implications of social and emotional learning for the changing workforce and the economy of the future. Originally, the U.S. system of education was designed to prepare students for a life of repetitive, industrialized work. Over time, the number of manual and routine jobs has steadily declined within the United States in favor of more complex, non-routine forms of employment, jobs which will require effective social and emotional skills. The following graph illustrates this trend.

Graph 1
(Image source: Pairin, 2015)


So given these massive global shifts and the significant benefits for students, why haven’t schools kept up? According to a recent study by the Education Week Research Center, only 34 percent of teachers are integrating social emotional learning into their classrooms, even minimally, even though 99 percent agree that social emotional learning increases student achievement, improves the school climate, and reduces school discipline problems.


(Image source: Pairin, 2015)


Educators understand that social and emotional skills are important for students. However, some resist making changes because they are worried these skills may not be teachable, measurable or possible to incorporate in a time-efficient manner. In addition, while the large majority of teachers want to integrate social and emotional skills into their curricula, many simply do not have the resources, training, or leeway from their superiors to do so. The fact that 84% of teachers surveyed want training on how to teach these skills indicates that they feel unprepared to make this shift. A systemic change in educational priorities is needed—one which affirms the reality that the world is different; one which grants social and emotional skills equal importance to traditional academic content; in other words, one which gives all students a real shot at success.


Autor, D., & Price, B. (2013). The changing task composition of the US labor market: An update of Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from

Education Week Research Center. (2015). Social and emotional learning: Perspectives from America’s schools. Retrieved from

Pairin. (2015, November 2). The methodology behind integrating essential college and career skills into everyday curricula. Retrieved from

Weissberg, R., Durlak, J.A., Domitrovich, C.E., & Gullotta, T.P. (2015, February 15). Why social and emotional learning is essential for students [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

World Economic Forum. (2016). New vision for education: Fostering social and emotional learning through technology. Retrieved from


Dr. Tara Laughlin is the Director of Curriculum at Pairin ( and a former teacher of 10 years.  She can be reached at


    • February 5, 2017
  •    BY Tara Laughlin, Ed.D. (Contributor)
  •    Comment:0

Los increíbles beneficios de las rutinas familiares alrededor de las comidas y la hora de acostarse

  • January 16, 2017
  •    BY Maurice Elias, Ph.D. (Co-Director)

Después de las vacaciones locas, estos consejos son más importantes que nunca.

El sueño y la comida están entre los elementos básicos más básicos de la vida. Sin embargo, ¿por qué parece que la hora de acostarse y la hora de comer son la época más agitada del día con los niños? Este año, usted probablemente hizo algún tipo de resolución para comer más comidas caseras o leer a su hijo más o tal vez sólo obtener más organizado en todos los aspectos de la vida. Bueno, todo comienza con el establecimiento y el pegado con las rutinas.

Establecer rutinas básicas, incluyendo las costumbres espirituales, juegan un papel en ayudar a los miembros de la familia a sentirse tranquilos, pacíficos y seguros. Piense en su hogar como un oasis contra el estrés: no importa lo que está pasando en el mundo exterior, nuestro espacio más personal e íntimo (el hogar) puede ser un refugio seguro.

Las rutinas vienen en muchas diversas formas y variarán para cada familia, basado en factores tales como tamaño de la familia, localización geográfica, observancia religiosa, etc. Dicho esto, hay algunas actividades específicas que cada familia hace cada día. A partir de mi libro, The Joys and Oys of Parenting, echemos un vistazo a dos de los más comunes de estos, la hora de comer y la hora de acostarse, y las maneras de ayudarles a ser más una fuente de alegría, que de oy.

Hora de comer:

Ahora que las vacaciones han pasado y todos los grandes planes y las partes que llenan su horario no son más, la hora de la comida puede finalmente ser una prioridad de nuevo. Estos consejos le ayudarán a establecer una rutina a principios de año:

  • Comer juntos. Es así de simple. Sus comidas no tienen que ser de lujo, o bastante, o incluso todo lo que pacífica. Pero el acto de pasar tiempo conjunto puede tener un gran impacto en nuestros hijos. Siéntese alrededor de la mesa y compartir algunos pensamientos, como un punto culminante del día de cada persona. Pruebe el juego, “Rosas y Espinas”, donde cada persona toma un turno describiendo una buena cosa que sucedió ese día (su “rosa”) y un momento bajo o un problema difícil que tuvieron que tratar (su “espina”). Es una manera divertida y fácil de identificar los oys y destacar las alegrías de la vida que suceden todos los días.
  • Reconocer los dones de la comida y el uno al otro. Ofrecer una bendición o expresión de agradecimiento antes y después de comer puede separar la hora de la comida del resto de nuestro día, así como hacernos sentir mejor. Esto funciona si estamos apreciando las habilidades de aquellos que ayudaron a crear el alimento, el Creador de toda la vida, o ambos. Es especialmente útil después de las vacaciones para practicar compartiendo lo que toda la familia está agradecida.
  • Crear un espíritu de cooperación alrededor de la hora de comer. Mencione lo importante que es para que todos puedan participar y ayudar con la rutina familiar. A continuación, crear un gráfico informal de tareas básicas (como limpiar la mesa) que aclara las responsabilidades de día a día (basado en la preferencia de su familia). Cuando los niños ven que sus acciones son reconocidas en un gráfico, acompañado de palabras apreciativas, a menudo es suficiente para reforzar estos comportamientos positivos. Una vez que las tareas se han completado, hacer tiempo para la diversión familiar si puedes.
  • No sea demasiado apresurado. Este puede ser el mayor desafío de todos. Muchas familias no están acostumbradas a tomar tiempo para hablar en las comidas y dejar de lado los aparatos electrónicos. Pero los niños aprecian mucho el tiempo para hablar sobre su día y para ser escuchados cuidadosamente. Simplemente no sondee demasiado profundamente demasiado pronto. Ellos hablarán más a medida que se sientan más cómodos, lo que significa que los padres no interrumpen o “corregir” la forma en que se sienten. Pacientemente, escuche y simpaticen. Poco a poco, usted encontrará que sus hijos estarán más dispuestos a abrirse sobre sus sentimientos, en particular las cosas que podrían molestarlos o que se sientan emocionados.

Hora de acostarse:

La hora de acostarse a menudo puede ser la hora más agitada del día, y la liquidación de los niños no siempre van como estaba previsto. Pero tomar el tiempo para hacer un ritual de la experiencia puede ayudar a sus hijos y usted a relajarse y pasar un tiempo de calidad juntos.

  • Leer juntos. Hay algo intemporal y especial acerca de la lectura de un libro real en voz alta a otra persona, especialmente uno de sus hijos. La lectura es una excelente manera de conectar y compartir algo personal, el don de la imaginación. ¡Y los padres no tienen que ser los únicos lectores! Alentar a un niño mayor a leer a un niño más joven beneficia a ambos. Si el tiempo es un problema, puede leer libros cortos o libros de capítulos, porque leer un capítulo una noche es una excelente manera de continuar el diálogo con nuestros hijos. También les da algo para mirar hacia adelante al día siguiente. Al igual que con todas las rutinas, es prudente establecer límites por adelantado, por lo que no hay sorpresas acerca de cuando la lectura final. La última cosa que su familia necesita es terminar el día con el conflicto, o las negociaciones extendidas.
  • Expresar gratitud.Pídales a sus hijos que compartan con ustedes tres momentos positivos durante el día, o tal vez su mejor momento del día.Pregúnteles por qué y cómo se sintieron durante esos momentos.Acabar por compartir con sus hijos lo que está agradecido por cada día y animar a hacer lo mismo. Hay buena ciencia detrás de hablar de lo que apreciamos en nuestras vidas (efectos positivos mensurables en el cuerpo y el cerebro). Estar agradecidos juntos también puede ayudar a los miembros de la familia a sentirse más cerca uno del otro.· Utilice una meditación, un poema, una oración o un refrán calmantes y significativos. Los niños (y los padres) obtienen el consuelo de tener un dicho de algún tipo para terminar el día. No es ninguna coincidencia que esto es parte de muchas tradiciones religiosas, pero no tiene que ser religioso. Recuerda el viejo programa de televisión, “The Walton’s”? El final hizo que todos dijeran buenas noches a todos en la casa.Conocemos un hogar donde eso sucede y también incluye todos los animales de peluche en el cuarto del niño. Puede ser tan sencillo como eso.No hay manera manual o perfecta de fijar horario e implementar rutinas en su hogar porque cada familia es diferente. Hacer lo que encaja para su familia, hacerlo de la manera más consistente posible, y hacer ajustes cuando las rutinas ya no funcionan (lo cual es inevitable a medida que los niños envejecen). Después de todo, el objetivo es hacer que su vida sea menos agitada y traer un poco más de seguridad, paz y tranquilidad a sus hijos y su hogar. 

    Maurice J. Elias es Profesor de Psicología en la Universidad de Rutgers y Director del Laboratorio de Desarrollo Social y Emocional de Rutgers.Recientemente escribió un libro, The Joys & Oys of Parenting, con sus colegas Marilyn E. Gootman y Heather L. Schwartz. En este libro, se basan en la sabiduría tradicional para ilustrar cómo, hace siglos, los asuntos de crianza de los hijos fueron abordados de una manera que hoy en día se apoya en la investigación sobre el desarrollo infantil.

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    • January 16, 2017
  •    BY Maurice Elias, Ph.D. (Co-Director)
  •    Comment:0