Model SEL With Students and Families

When staff model social and emotional competencies in their interactions with students and families, they intentionally embody SEL and set the stage for trusting relationships that catalyze learning and partnership.

While modeling SEL may look different from person to person, school leaders and staff members should communicate through their actions their belief that students’ and families’ knowledge and perspective are valuable and they are essential partners. When staff act in ways that model inclusion and center relationships—including seeking input, asking for feedback, and admitting fault when necessary—it sends the message that students and families have value, experiences, and perspectives to honor and learn from.

Model SEL in Interactions with Students

Educators who effectively model SEL can positively impact school and classroom climate. For example, responding to questions and concerns in ways that demonstrate curiosity and move toward collaborative problem-solving sets the tone for more positive interactions and can help students feel comfortable making their voices heard.

School leaders and staff members can also create awareness around SEL and how it supports day-to-day thriving by articulating their SEL strategies. In their interactions with students, staff can talk about how they learn (and grow) from exposure to multiple perspectives, reflect on how their decisions impact others, manage their own frustration, practice self-acceptance and compassion, and more. For example:

  • A teacher tells students a story about the technology that was available when they were in school, how their understanding of how young people use technology has changed because of what they have learned from students, and how their new perspective has led to changes in their approach to managing phone use in the classroom.
  • A theater director is having trouble recruiting students to join the stage crew. They ask current cast and crew members for their perspectives and ideas and collaboratively develop a plan to attract new participants and make them feel welcome.
  • A cafeteria supervisor speaks more harshly than they intended to a middle school student who is not paying attention in line. When they have a moment, they apologize to the student, explaining that the start of lunch can be a stressful time for the cafeteria staff but they’re working on using a more peaceful tone.
  • A language arts teacher models providing writing feedback that is thoughtful and curious. To make it more actionable, the teacher provides students with sentence starters to scaffold their feedback to a peer. 

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Modeling SEL in Interactions With Students and Families

Professional learning activity to engage staff in reflection about how they will intentionally model and embody SEL in their interactions with students and families as part of schoolwide implementation


Model SEL in Interactions With Families

Families and caregivers are educators’ most important allies in supporting students’ social and emotional development. By embodying SEL in the way they interact with families, school staff members strengthen partnership with them by building trust and authentically receiving what they have to offer.

Modeling SEL in interactions with families can positively impact their perceptions of school climate and create spaces of belonging. Each staff member at a school has the opportunity to model SEL with families. For example:

  • In a video tour of the school, the principal describes strategies the school uses to build supportive relationships and environments and how they listen to families’ ideas and concerns and gives examples of ways families have influenced the school.
  • An administrator calling home about a disciplinary incident describes the event without blame and asks the student and caregivers for additional background information to gain a clearer picture of the situation. They work with the family and student to develop and articulate goals for the student and a plan to achieve them.
  • The front office staff at a school greets parents and caregivers warmly, makes an effort to remember who their children are, and helps answer their questions or connect them to someone who can. 
  • A teacher uses parent conferences to build relationships with families and better understand their hopes and concerns for their students. They position families as experts on their children as they share their own experiences and observations of the student. 
  • An SEL team shares power and models responsible decision-making by hosting forums for families to share their perspectives and impact SEL implementation decisions throughout the school year.

These additional resources can support staff members to apply an SEL lens in the way they plan events, respond to scenarios, and create opportunities for bi-directional learning between families and staff:

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