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Focus Area 2


Live out the SEL competencies as you lead and interact with others throughout the school community.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

—James Baldwin in Fifth Avenue, Uptown, 1960

Intentionally or not, adults are constantly modeling their social and emotional competence (Jones et al., 2013). Young people are watching and learning as adults navigate emotions, work toward goals, respond to others, take in different perspectives, solve problems, and make decisions. When adults deliberately model strong SEL competence  and mindsets, young people see how to apply social and emotional skills in their lives.

Research also shows that teachers who demonstrate positive social and emotional competence have stronger relationships with their students (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009), which leads to improved student conduct, engagement, attachment to school, and academic performance (McHugh et al., 2013; Allen et al., 2015; McGrath & Van Bergen, 2015; Farmer, 2018; Kincade et al., 2020).

When school leaders are intentional in how they exemplify SEL competence, they too build more positive and trusting relationships with members of the school community (Gómez-Leal et al., 2022). Leaders set the tone and build supportive relationships and environments where staff can grow and thrive, and staff members are better positioned to live out the SEL competencies in the way they work with each other, students, and students’ families.

In this section, we provide strategies for:

  • Modeling SEL among staff
  • Modeling SEL in interactions with students and families
  • Modeling SEL through leadership practices

As you focus on modeling social and emotional competence, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Do school leaders regularly model social, emotional, and cultural competence  in their communication and interactions with staff, students, families, and community partners?

Do teachers and other staff regularly model social, emotional, and cultural competence in their communication and interactions with students, families, and colleagues?

Have school leaders and the SEL team created opportunities to build supportive relationships among staff?

Do school leaders and the SEL team regularly acknowledge staff efforts and contributions?

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