Mindfulness and SEL for Educators

SEL Blog Post

As the evidence-based research is mounting that  children’s capacity to cope with emotions influences their ability to learn, there has been a national movement in education to integrate social and emotional learning into the classroom. Often times, the implementation of SEL curriculum is driven by the goal of supporting the attainment of specific skills for students, therefore all of the “teaching” is surrounded around what the child will learn.  Most SEL curriculum aims on building students’ interpersonal competencies (e.g., prosocial behaviors, interpersonal communication, and social problem-solving skills), as well as intrapersonal competencies (e.g., attention, emotional regulation, and resilience).

At Zensational Kids, we believe that the interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies of the educator are just as important, if not more important than those of their students. As the educator, you are the main, energetic, social and emotional model in the classroom. Your ability to demonstrate social and emotional competence is essential. To strengthen these skills within the student and the educator simultaneously, our approach integrates mindfulness with SEL. Mindfulness is a proven technique to help build attentional focus, emotional regulation, reduction of stress and an improved sense of compassion for yourself and others. Our program teaches specific breath, movement and mindfulness activities that allow students and educators to engage and practice together, therefore everyone can achieve the same benefits.  As a classroom community, everyone develops the inner discipline of self-awareness and self-management. These two competencies hone the internal wiring, neural structure and nervous system balance that is necessary for compassionate social awareness. It also creates an internal environment that supports problem-solving and decision making skills. Through the integration of mindfulness and SEL, everyone…..both students and educators benefit in this way, 

By design, we are social and emotional beings. Neuroscientist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “Stroke of Insight,” states that “We are feeling beings who think.”

In terms of our social connection, our neurology and physiology are “wirelessly” connected to others (think Bluetooth). This capability allows us to literally feel the emotional state of those around us.  Emotions are contagious and we unconsciously pick up the emotional signals of the people we are with. 

Have you ever had a parent meeting where you felt confident and proud of the work you have been doing in your classroom only to arrive at the table with your team members and the parents to receive a totally different vibe? You may find yourself surrounded by people who don’t share your perspective or enthusiasm, and before a single word is uttered, you feel the oxygen sucked out of the room. Your good feelings and confidence may be out the window, replaced with anxiety and worry.  

All of this happens without a single word uttered. 

We are wired to feel first, then think, rationalize, make decisions and problem solve, later.

So, how can this ability to wirelessly connect with unspoken signals be helpful?

First, when you are aware of the signal you are sending, you will have a better understanding of how and why people react and respond to you.

Second, the higher your emotional intelligence, the more efficient and accurate you will be at assessing the emotional states of others. 

The ability to assess the emotional state of others can be used as a way to shield yourself from the “bad vibes” that fly through the air, while understanding the signals that you send out can be a useful tool to intentionally support the emotional states of others.

Combining mindfulness with social-emotional learning, we become better equipped to understand and navigate the subtleties of unspoken communication through body language, facial expression and the overall sensation of being in another’s presence.  We can better understand both the signals we are sending and the signals we receive which ultimately should lead to more successful engagement and connection with others.

Zensational Kids programs are driven by our mission to empower students and educators with the knowledge as well as the practices that activate their unlimited potential to lear, learn and live with greater awareness, compassion, connection and resilience. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help your school attain this, please contact us.