Reflect on Personal Social and Emotional Skills

Educators are more prepared to teach and integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) when their own social and emotional competence is strong (Palomera, et al., 2008; Schonert-Reichl, 2017). By providing opportunities for staff members to individually and collectively reflect on and practice their own social and emotional competence, you empower their work with students.

Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making are essential for adults as well as young people. Self-awareness is a good place to start, since growing our self-awareness helps us to accurately assess strengths and areas for growth in all five SEL competencies broadly; build awareness of aspects of our own identities; recognize and address bias; and identify and act in alignment with our values.

Developing self-awareness includes deepening understanding of our emotions and how they influence our behaviors across context. Modeling SEL can be challenging in times of stress. Our bodies are wired to respond to triggers and threats, and this can narrow our focus, causing us to become reactive instead of responsive to others. When adults feel stress and struggle to regulate their response, it impacts the stress level and behavior of the young people around them (Oberle & Schonert-Reichl, 2016; Braun et al., 2020; Arens & Morin, 2016). Remaining aware of our body language, breathing, and muscle tension can help ensure that we respond to others in ways that align with our values and aspirations and help us to take purposeful action towards affecting change even in challenging situations.

Below, we provide two tools that support self-awareness when used by adults to reflect on their own social and emotional growth in the five competency areas. As you use them to engage in personal reflection, prioritize curiosity and self-compassion. Just as with students, the goal for educators is growth, not perfection. A kind stance towards ourselves enhances motivation and wellness and helps us care for others (Neff, 2023).

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Personal SEL Reflection

Principals, administrators, SEL team members, staff members, and other adults can use this tool to assess personal strengths, think about how to model those strengths when interacting with others, and plan strategies to promote growth across areas of social and emotional competence. Also available in Spanish.

Teams have used this as a professional learning tool to help educators and staff understand the role of SEL as a lifelong process and how it is relevant in their daily lives.


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Spark Questions for Leaders

District, school, and organizational leaders and those leading an SEL team can use these questions to spark reflection about leadership: how they apply social and emotional competencies and focal constructs that center equity and excellence in the way they learn, connect and collaborate, and model SEL as leaders.

CASEL has used these questions in learning communities with district SEL leaders. Each member of the group set a personal goal for their leadership growth and selected a question from this tool that sparked their curiosity and connected back to their goal. Participants had time to write and reflect before turning to a partner to share their thoughts, then revisited these reflections individually and with partners throughout the months that followed to deepen follow-through and accountability.


Additional Resources for Self-Reflection

Self-Assessing Social and Emotional Instruction and Competencies: A Tool for Teachers (American Institutes for Research)

Social and Emotional Learning Practices: A Self-Reflection Tool for Afterschool Staff (American Institutes for Research)

Framework for Educator Well-Being (Center for Learning and Well-Being)


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