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Focus Area 2


Support staff in cultivating personal social and emotional competencies and fostering the competencies of peers and students.

“Teachers don’t just need to know how to explicitly teach social and emotional skills; they also need the knowledge, dispositions, and skills for creating a safe, caring, supportive, and responsive school and classroom community.”

Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl in Social and Emotional Learning and Teachers

To fully implement schoolwide SEL, it’s important for schools to support staff in cultivating their own social and emotional competence while developing their ability to support SEL in their peers and students.

By engaging in their own social and emotional learning, teachers enhance their own efficacy and job satisfaction while creating models for students’ SEL (Elias et al., in press; Jones & Weissbourd, 2013). Studies have found that adults who can recognize, understand, label, express, and regulate their own emotions:

  • More effectively teach and model social emotional competence for their students (Brackett et al., 2008).
  • Build and maintain stronger relationships with their students (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009), which leads to improved classroom management (Durlak et al., 2011) and fewer discipline problems (Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
  • Demonstrate higher levels of patience and empathy, encourage healthy communication, and create safe learning environments (Brackett et al., 2008).
  • Are less likely to report burnout (Brackett et al., 2010) and have higher levels of relational trust with their peers at work (Bryk & Schneider, 2002), which lays a foundation for productive collaboration.
  • Positively contribute to the school’s overall climate (DiPaola & Tschannen-Moran, 2001).

If you have already begun developing a plan to support adults in their own social and emotional learning, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Do staff have meaningful opportunities to reflect on and develop their own social, emotional, and cultural competencies?

Are these opportunities built into regular staff meetings and part of the school’s overall professional learning strategy?

Do these opportunities include structured activities to support staff in practicing self-care and examining their mindsets and biases?

Does the SEL team regularly review data related to adult SEL and cultural competence to plan ongoing support?

Depending on the responses to the questions, you may want to prioritize certain areas in your plan for supporting adult SEL. In this section, you’ll find the following activities to support staff in developing SEL knowledge, dispositions, and skills through:

  • Reflecting on their own social and emotional competencies and growth mindsets.
  • Understanding motivation to increase workplace collaboration.
  • Examining biases for cultural competence.
  • Cultivating growth mindset among staff.
  • Understanding adolescent development.
  • Developing strategies for self-care.
  • Developing a personalized learning plan to build skills and knowledge that support schoolwide SEL implementation.

SEL teams may choose to explore structured programs that focus on developing adults’ social and emotional competence. While the field continues to develop, current evidence-based programs that support adult SEL outcomes include Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE), Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) in Education, and the Community Approach to Learning Mindfully (CALM).

As new resources to support adult SEL are emerging, CASEL recommends that school teams identify strategies that are based in current research on adult SEL, are culturally responsive, and use relevant data paired with a continuous improvement cycle to ensure they’re achieving their goals.

Building Adult SEL in Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) realized early in its SEL journey that fostering adult SEL is essential for the development of effective SEL leaders and teachers. School and district leaders have made it a priority to strengthen the connection between a supportive learning environment and adults skills to teach, model, and reinforce SEL.

As part of schoolwide SEL implementation, staff start with identifying and reflecting on their own social and emotional competencies.  During the process, they identify their strengths and areas where they would like to grow, and plan how to engage colleagues in an ongoing process of building these skills throughout the school.

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