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Orienting Educators to SEL Through Video

Maurice J. Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service (
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Teacher speaking with two students

In my work with SEL in schools for nearly four decades, I have always said that I never have to "sell" SEL; I only have to "show" it. Once educators see it in action, and especially once they experience kids' reactions to SEL, they almost always understand its value and begin down the road to transforming their classrooms and/or schools.

But in many instances, this is not easy to accomplish. Most schools are not proximal to other schools implementing high-quality SEL. Also, most schools don't have local experts accessible who can come in to demonstrate lessons effectively.

With my colleagues at CASEL, we created a book, The Educator's Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement: Social-Emotional Learning in the Classroom (Corwin Press), designed to give readers the "feel" of SEL in action. Each chapter in the main section of the book presents an evidence-based SEL curriculum from pre-K to high school.

Each chapter opens with a vignette designed to give the reader a "feel" for SEL lessons, followed by some "do now's" that educators could implement with little background or preparation -- all of which solidify "showing" it to them.

Videos Are A Step Forward

When we developed this guide, videos were not as plentiful as they are now. And so our strategy has changed. We now encourage educators -- and others new to SEL, such as students, other in-school or after-school program staff members, parents, and school board members -- to "see" SEL first via these videos and then try it out in their in-school or after-school settings.

Among a growing selection of excellent videos, we have shown the following as part of our initial orientation to SEL. We say a bit about what SEL is, how it is designed to complement what is happening in schools, and that it never constitutes an "add-on." SEL becomes part of the culture and climate of a school, and is an essential partner to traditional character development approaches, and that SEL skills are essential for academic and life success, in pre-K to grade 12 and higher education contexts and beyond.

Then, we show one of these videos and discuss what viewers notice, such as the empowering nature of the pedagogy, the emphasis on group learning, the approach to skill development, the connection to discipline policies, and, above all, the joy of SEL-infused classrooms:

Video 1: A School District's Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning Pays Off

Video 2: How To Teach Math as a Social Activity

Video 3: Educate the Heart

Video 4: Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning

Video 5: Smart Hearts: Social and Emotional Learning Overview

Share Your Thoughts

Each of these videos has distinctive strengths. They provide classroom teachers with a really great "look and feel" of SEL with students. Video #2 has been an invaluable tool for showing how SEL can be integrated into academic subject areas. See what you think, and post your reviews of the videos in the comments section below. Please share how you find them to be most useful.

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Maurice J. Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service (

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Michael Hoi's picture

In the video "A School District's Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning Pays Off", I really liked how the schools gave the kids a sense of community. Usually people have their own friend groups and do not feel as if all their classmates are their friend or supporter. But with SEL in the schools, people can see that everyone helps build each other up. They all grow and improve together as well.

Michael Hoi's picture

In the video" How to Teach Math as a Social Activity", I liked how learning math for the kids was a group effort. All the steps helped the kids understand how to not only help themselves learn, but also help their fellow classmates learn. The best step, I think, that helps the students is step 5. Step 5 shows the students that math class is not only about solutions or equations, but it is also about social interactions and how to solve problems with feedback from others.

Michael Hoi's picture

This video "Educate the Heart" showed that we can't just learn through our minds. We have to learn things through our feelings and emotions. Education is lost if we only do half the work. The mind is one part, and the heart is another. I feel that SEL can be incorporated into helping to educate the heart in many forms. Not only in helping others with school work, but help motivating each other every day to be the best they can be in school and to not feel inadequate in something they do not fully understand in a course, subject, etc.

Michael Hoi's picture

The best line from the video "Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning", for me was "It can't just be another binder off the shelf". The video as a whole told me that SEL can help with many aspects of learning. Not only do students feel free to speak their mind, but they are also positive in their behavior towards school. This is because they feel like school is not a dreading place to be, but a place where they like to be. Where they can learn a lot and have a good attitude towards it as well.

Michael Hoi's picture

The video "Smart Hearts" is an excellent representation on how schools should deal with bullying and cooperation in a daily school session. Starting from first grade, in some schools, to show how bullying can effect others, helps the kids from a young age to identify and help resolve bullying situations. Looking back to when I went to elementary school, we had peer mediators who were always there to help resolve situations of disagreement or even bullying situations at recess. When the video talked about how through the SEL learning, school bullying and violence has went down drastically, I was amazed to see that the SEL learning program worked so well in such a short amount of time. I also agree on the point of that school is not solely based on learning knowledge, but also learning your own heart and others as well. Before they can start learning, their hearts have to be at the right place

Julian Fernandez's picture

The first video only further justifies why we believe that Social Emotional Learning should be supplemented into every school system, especially ones that are struggling. I love the way that the school has students complement each other before every class and has them care for each other instead of bullying each other. My absolute favorite part of this video though, has to come when the Superintendent explains that a detention is not the necessary disciplinary action for a certain misbehavior. An apology letter or a face-to-face confrontation with the other student affected sounds like a way better plan to me. Detention has been given so many times to students that at some point (which has been reached with schools like these), it becomes useless and nowhere near an effective consequence to an action. It also helps students develop conflict resolution skills. In this video, after the school started implementing Social Emotional Learning, not only were the suspensions cut in half and attendance raised, but the level of caring also increased in students and sometimes, that is all a student needs to become successful.

Julian Fernandez's picture

I thought that the second video was a great way to try and incorporate social emotional learning into a math class, where I personally think that reflection on the work you have done is completely overlooked and not considered important. The way he had his whole class come together to make the class working agreement was definitely something that I feel every classroom has to do in general, in order to further the interest students show in class. It would also demonstrate a very fair system where it feels more like a democracy, rather than a dictatorship (something I feel can be a problem for the student-teacher relationship). To go the extra mile and force kids to further explain their analysis of a problem (even if it was as simple as his multiplication problem) is definitely what I feel differentiates the good teachers from the great teachers. A lot of peer analysis is also something that I feel makes a huge difference when it comes to learning; nobody will understand your academic troubles like your peers. The fish bowl process of sharing your answers and investigating different theories and ideas is easily a great way to incorporate social interactions between classmates. In math classes, I find it is so difficult to find a classroom where the teacher is not lecturing for a good 75% of the class period. The teacher in this video easily made the class discussions count and definitely made it seem like it was more of a collaborative group learning activity than a regular math class, relieving a lot of stress from students. I definitely saw the value in watching this video and think that what this specific teacher did was something that you barely see in math classes in particular.

Julian Fernandez's picture

The third video was short, but concise. I liked the way it kind of made Social Emotional Learning seem so overlooked and inconsiderable to the viewers. It is true though, people have to know that in order to succeed in life, it is not only the education you learned in school that matters, but the education from the heart that makes a big difference too. Also, the versatility of Social Emotional Learning is important to note because like the video says, it can take place at hockey practice or dance recitals. The video was just a nice reminder that Social Emotional Learning should not be overlooked and is important for a proper, well-rounded education.

Julian Fernandez's picture

The fourth video kind of showed all the positives being displayed from Social Emotional Learning and definitely showed the potential strides. Their 5 step process to successful Social Emotional Learning was a very nice guideline to follow for the kids and teachers to track their process. All the skills that are taught through Social Emotional Learning are lifelong lessons that can be carried through everything and this system that this specific school has placed is perfect. Students are learning to self-motivate themselves, keep their emotions in check, and to keep their relationships with their peers as appropriate as possible. Intervention played a big part in this video and that, I believe is an important part of school that has been missing for way too long.

Julian Fernandez's picture

"Educating the heart is as important as educating the mind". With that mindset, the last video found a way to captivate its viewers. Not only was it a nice reminder of how effective SEL is, but it showed it through its clips of the bullying assembly and the teacher who spoke in front of her class holding the heart. The way students deal with their feelings is just as important as any one subject in a curriculum. I was especially touched by the assembly that the school out in California had where all the kids were invited to share their stories and their feelings. It goes to show that with a little attention, kids really do share the way they feel and think. In a classroom setting where this is prioritized, the comfort in the room is so high that the relationships between students and teacher becomes stronger, elevating the learning that happens.

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