We often expect students to check their emotions at the classroom door, so they can knuckle-down on an algebra problem with cold reason like Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
But a growing body of research shows that thinking and feeling are two sides of the same coin — inseparable ingredients for memory and learning — which means students must learn to integrate social and emotional skills with academic skills to get the most out of school.
Lawmakers in Olympia are considering companion bills (HB-1760 and SB-5688) that would add social and emotional skills to the list of things students should learn in school to reduce bullying, dropouts and disciplinary problems.
Such skills include making responsible decisions, controlling impulses, handling stress, persevering against adversity, forming healthy relationships, empathizing with others and respecting social differences.
The bills, which have bipartisan support, specifically require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene a work group that would establish social and emotional learning guidelines at every grade level to improve the overall school environment.
The work group would submit recommendations by Oct. 1, 2016. The bills also include provisions for training school staff and developing district-level plans to improve social and emotional learning.
SEL for Washington represents several organizations supporting the legislation.
Programs to improve social and emotional skills at the elementary- and middle-school levels are showing positive results for academic skills, also, according to a 2008 review of research from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, a Chicago-based organization promoting social and emotional learning.