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5 Tips for adult social-emotional learning

SEL for educators

As educators, you know social-emotional learning (SEL) is critical to teaching to the whole child. However, addressing teachers’ own social-emotional needs isn’t always top-of-mind. A Pennsylvania State University study found that teacher stress is at an all-time high, which impacts their health and well-being, job satisfaction and turnover as well as student outcomes. Focusing on teachers’ SEL can produce positive outcomes for both students and teachers. While DreamBox is here to support your math instruction, we’re also here to foster your own social-emotional learning.

What is adult SEL?

“Adult SEL is the process of helping educators build their expertise and skills to learn social and emotional initiatives. It also involves cultivating adults’ own social and emotional competencies.” (source)

Examples of adult SEL:

  • Teachers’ ability to demonstrate positive relationships, self-awareness and social awareness to students.
  • Stress management and self-care practices.
  • Professional development opportunities.
  • Positive and supportive school communities that empower teachers to practice their own SEL.

Tips for adult SEL

  1. Practice self-care: You know firsthand that educators are encouraged to focus time and energy on others. Prioritizing self-care isn’t selfish; it’s essential. When you take care of yourself, you’re prepared to be the best teacher you can be for your students
    • Teaching can be socially overwhelming and exhausting. Take a break for 10 to 20 minutes a day and decompress.
    • Learn stress management and breathing exercises to use throughout the day. Apps like Headspace, Calm and Happify are a great start.
    • Social support is an important element of self-care. Find ways to connect with loved ones at least once a day.
    • Engage in activities you enjoy. Maybe it’s reading a thriller, learning a new recipe or watching a comedy special – fun looks different for everyone.
  2. Maintain healthy boundaries: As a teacher, it’s likely you’re working constantly – mornings, nights and weekends. To sustain your effectiveness, create and maintain boundaries with students, parents and ultimately, yourself.
    • Determine a schedule that includes start and end times, your self-care practices and breaks. Schedule your meals and personal time, and don’t respond to work-related communications during those times.
    • Set office hours when students and parents can contact you outside of the school day and adhere to them.
  3. Focus your energy: Teachers are never just teachers. You wear a lot of hats – counselor, referee, mentor, nurse – the list is ongoing. As problem-solvers, it’s normal to want to fix everything happening in and outside of your classroom. But trying to fix it all can quickly lead to burnout. Instead, focus on the most important problems you CAN solve and place your energy there.
    • Analyzing student data is one of the best ways to prioritize next steps and solve problems in your classroom. Use the reports on your DreamBox Insight Dashboard to access student data quickly and easily so you know exactly where to focus your instruction and energy.


  4. Advocate for yourself: Asking for what you need as a teacher can be nerve-wracking, but it’s essential to build your self-esteem and social-emotional learning. When you want to speak with your administrators, be sure to:
    • Determine your exact needs.
    • Research solutions.
    • Gather support from colleagues.
    • Plan what you’d like to say.
    • Express yourself clearly. Needs + solutions = results.
  5. Take advantage of professional development: Professional development not only improves your craft, it also strengthens your SEL knowledge for students and yourself.
    • Use the various professional development resources in your Insight Dashboard. If you’re looking to advance your craft and ensure you’re using DreamBox to the best of your ability, these resources are a great start.

To learn more about your own SEL development, check out UC Berkeley’s Greater Good in Education. Share it with your school administrators and colleagues to spark a larger conversation around adult SEL at your school.

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