Beyond Bullying Summit Recap Leads to Focus on SEL

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, February 7, 2013

To reduce the prevalence of school age bullying, researchers and educators recommend integrating a curriculum that incorporates social-emotional learning (SEL), a method for teaching children fundamental skills such as self-awareness, decision-making, and relationship skills. At a recent Summit, educators from across the country overwhelmingly agreed that integrating SEL and character development into the curriculum would be the most effective way to proactively address bullying.

On January 14th, over 300 teachers, school counselors, and other members of the education community attended Beyond Bullying: Safe Schools, Successful Students at Teachers College, Columbia University to learn about integrating SEL into the curriculum to help combat bullying and boost student achievement. Zaner-Bloser and the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) hosted the event.

Recent national events regarding school safety have heightened awareness about how to keep students safe while maintaining a successful learning environment. Keynote speaker, Kirk Smalley, shared his family’s experience with the devastating consequences of bullying. During his emotional presentation, Smalley called on the Summit attendees to commit to working on solutions for ending bullying in schools.

The attendees also heard from a panel of superintendents who presented proactive examples, such as inserting SEL and character education into student studies, which have drastically reduced bullying incidents and suspensions. “We can put all the hardware in place…It is what we do inside of our schools to make sure they are the climates that support alerting us, keeping us informed, and making sure our kids are safe and supported,” said Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Dr. Marc Brackett, deputy director of the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Laboratory at Yale University, explained how effective SEL programming requires students to learn how to identify and regulate their emotions. And, to effectively implement SEL, teachers must also possess these abilities. The most successful SEL initiatives are inclusive of students, teachers, parents, school staff, and the community. SEL must “involve everybody with a face,” said Dr. Brackett.

With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many educators expressed concerns that they may have too much on their plates to incorporate new lessons into the curriculum. According to Dr. Ed Dunkelblau, director of the Institute for Emotionally Intelligent Learning, that is not the case. “SEL is not something else on your plate. It is the plate.” Dr. Dunkelblau explained, “SEL is not a new concept. We are rediscovering it. We lost it with Sputnik. As soon as the space race started, everything we did was about science and math and beating the Russians.”

Presenters from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) also walked the group through how SEL supports the CCSS.

Attendees of the Summit learned that incorporating SEL and character education into the curriculum not only reduces incidents of bullying, but also creates other benefits such as

•             improving literacy development.

•             boosting overall academic performance.

•             reducing absentee and suspension rates.

•             helping to meet the CCSS.

•             creating a caring, positive school climate.

Results of two Summit surveys showed that an overwhelming majority believes bullying is a problem in schools, no matter the socio-economic status. Ninety-four percent responded that integrating instruction on SEL and character development into the curriculum is the most effective way to address bullying. The survey also showed a significant takeaway on the issue of how literacy activities can provide effective ways to improve classroom climate. “We saw a strong shift in opinion from our participants who now understand the benefit of integrating SEL into their lessons and realize that reducing the incidents of bullying causes an increase in academic performance,” said Dr. Ernest Morrell, professor of English education and director of IUME at Teachers College, Columbia University.

To view slides and videos from the Summit presentations, and to learn about becoming a Beyond Bullying Alliance member, please visit www.beyondbullyingsummit.org. You can also join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) For almost forty years, IUME has used advocacy, demonstration, evaluation, information dissemination, research and technical assistance to study and seek to improve the quality of life chances through education in the communities of urban and minority peoples. The Institute continues to focus on the implications of population in the context of the demand for pluralistic competencies for the design and management of teaching and learning transactions in schools and other environments for education.

About Zaner-Bloser

Zaner-Bloser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highlights for Children with more than 120 years of experience in education, is one of the premier publishers of research-based reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting programs. The Zaner-Bloser mission is to create dynamic, appealing, and effective educational programs and services. Zaner-Bloser focuses on distinctive programs that inspire all students to become engaged, literate participants in the global society.