Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programmes teach children social and emotional skills that are not only linked with greater academic success but also skills of empathy, compassion, kindness, gratitude, optimism and resilience which improve their relationships and ability to make responsible decisions and choices within the school and wider community. SEL programmes also improve student attitudes toward school and reduce stress for both students and teachers alike.
Traditionally there has been an assumption that academic learning has little or nothing to do with our emotions or relationships. More recently neuroscience tells us that the opposite is true. The areas of our brain that are involved in cognitive learning are directly linked to the emotional centres of our brain. Whenever a child experiences a distressing emotion eg fear or anger, their ability to hear or understand what a teacher is saying is temporarily restricted. The body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol as their ‘flight or flight’ survival instinct kicks in. In ‘survival mode’ the need to evaluate, problem solve or retain new information is restricted. The opposite is also true. When a child feels calm and focused, the cognitive areas of their brain are open and ready to learn. Neuroscience clearly tells us that there is a direct link between emotions and learning and that happy children are more effective learners.