Recently, CASE for Kids staff convened for a lunch-and-learn with an educational webinar from the National Afterschool Association. The webinar, SEL For Kids Starts with Adults, highlighted best practices of social emotional learning (SEL) within afterschool programs. CASE for Kids staff were eager to discuss how they could practice SEL within the office and quickly made those connections to the programs that they work with every day.
This discussion produced a valid conclusion: Students can only learn and practice SEL if they see it demonstrated around them. In many instances, SEL starts with the adults that work with students every day. Youth can only see the value of SEL if it is modeled between program staff, not solely with their peers. Challenges with things like acknowledging others and using empathy during conflict will naturally arise within the workplace. However, the benefits of observing trusted adults practicing what they encourage brings student buy-in.
Improving program quality is an ongoing process. Implementing SEL from the top down is the best way to ensure students are learning from modeled behaviors. When adults practice SEL, it creates a supportive culture for students to do the same, (Newman & Warner 2019).