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Investing in SEL Training Makes Great Business Sense

The writing has been on the wall for some time.  It just took the disruptions of Covid-19 to accentuate what many companies already knew:  Business as usual just won’t cut it anymore.  Employees increasingly demand challenging and meaningful work, in an environment of their choosing.

These demands, coupled with competition on a global scale, are triggering what Deloitte Consulting in its 2023 Global Human Capital Trends report defines as a ‘boundaryless world’- a place where much  work defies any traditional job descriptions, where there may be no brick and mortar buildings and where workers don’t fit the description of traditional employees.

Working in a Boundary-Less World

If Deloitte’s predictions materialize, job candidates who are SEL-trained will be in the driver’s seat.  With a value system that favors reimagination and critical thinking over cost and productivity, SEL-skilled individuals who collaborate well, are accountable for their efforts and enjoy working in an environment where creativity and risk-taking are rewarded will be in high demand.

Consider this message that Deloitte’s report offers:

“To lead in this boundaryless world, organizations and workers should activate their curiosity, looking at each decision as an experiment that will expedite impact and generate new insights. Differentiation and winning will come not from always believing you must have the right answer at the start, but by being able to challenge orthodoxies, operate with humility and empathy, and learn from new information so you can refine as quickly as possible.”

Businesses are Hungry for SEL Skills

In this “boundary-less world”, SEL-skilled workers will also have a competitive edge when it comes to  their ability to visualize how to redefine industries. This ability, says Josh Bersin in his Global Workforce Intelligence Project workforce trend report Redesigning Jobs, Organizations and Work, will be in demand as a wide spectrum of industries pivot to new models of remote and hybrid work, human-centered leadership, diversity and innovation.

“As companies struggle to recruit, develop, and retain people,” says Bersin, ”they face a massive need for entirely new skills, new career pathways, new employment models, new organizational structures, and new HR practices.”

Problem Solvers Are in Demand

Such rapid changes come at a cost and workers who can solve problems and resolve conflicts within such a vast array of moving parts will stand outThat’s one of the key takeaways from a paper given at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos in late 2022. In “Education 4.0:  Here are 3 skills that students will need for the jobs of the future” adaptability, collaboration and problem solving are highlighted as the critical skills needed to bridge legacy business models with emerging ones.  Here again,  job candidates, trained in SEL curricula that emphasize these same skills, will have the competitive edge.

In many ways, the future will be a ‘people-controlled world’, says business consultant Accenture. The new power dynamics will center around employees who can create new connections and engage others in a world that is in constant upheaval.  With its emphasis on building  strong diverse relationships, investing in SEL training makes great business sense.

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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SEL Can Aid in Academic Recovery

A recent editorial by SEL expert Sara Rimm-Kauffman, originally published in the Los Angeles Times, highlights SEL’s role in helping schools and students recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Also, at a time like this, we can’t just think about academics, but also must consider a child’s social and emotional skills and well-being. It’s a good time to ask about our long-term goals for children and youth. In the 21st century, kids face an increasingly uncertain future. It’s not just about learning, but also about using new knowledge to work with others to address real-world problems in their communities and beyond.

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Making the Voting Process a Family Affair

With mid-term elections just around the corner, temperatures are rising. And it has less to do with climate change than the sheer number of heated promises, dire warnings and shaded truths that candidates pass for facts.  It’s not the greatest climate for introducing kids to the importance of voting.  The good news is that there are plenty of online resources to help make that discussion meaningful and even fun.

What Does Voting Have to Do With Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL and voting are related in a few ways.

One, voting is a way for you to say whether you support SEL in your local schools.

Two, part of Social-Emotional Learning is social awareness. Elections and voting heighten our social awareness around issues and priorities for our local, state, and national communities.

And three, voting and elections is a great way to engage with your kids, teach them a bit about the wider world, and learn what’s important to them.

Start by Boosting Your News Literary Skills

Kids are great sleuths.   They can sniff out news from a variety of sources.  Unfortunately, they may rely on websites that skewer the facts.  This is particularly true during the election season.  Parents need to boost their news literary skills so that they can explain the concept of bias to their kids.

If their kids are fortunate enough to have SEL curriculum in school, that job will be made easier.  

Find websites that are dedicated to sharing tips about critically analyzing news reports.  The News Literary Project’s  is dedicated to helping readers determine the credibility of news so that they can make informed election choices.  Their recent article about determining reliable voting information sources offers solid advice that can also be shared with kids.

Don’t Bombard Your Kids With Too Much Detail

It is easy to get into the weeds when explaining the election process to your kids.  At the risk of having their eyes gloss over within seconds, start with talking about such basic concepts as the importance of voting. And then, this being the mid-term elections, segue into talking about how election outcomes at the local and state level can have powerful consequences even when the office of the presidency is not at stake.

Make it Fun!

Who says that learning about elections can’t be fun? 

In fact, a quick visit to iCivics.org will quickly make doubters into believers.  Created as a teacher-led resource, this site is also a tremendous gift to parents who want to educate their kids about all-things-government.  Their Election Headquarters section contains guides created by kids for kids, such as their Student Power Elections that offers ways for kids not old enough to vote to also engage in the electoral process. Reinforce their news literacy skills by playing their NewsFeedDefender game.  Other games focus on running a county and the election day voting process.

Making the election season a family affair may not guarantee your candidates win.  But it will give your loved ones another way to stay civics-minded and connected.  

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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SEL and Traditional Values: Supporting All Families

Regardless of political or religious affiliations, all parents want their children to thrive, instead of suffer. 

When parents picture their children thriving, they envision qualities and family values like these:

  • Being responsible, ethical, honest, accountable and respectful of others. 
  • The ability to take on challenges with the confidence to reach their full potential.
  • The self-discipline to succeed independently even if hard work is required, then  contribute to their communities and maintain a strong country.
  • The willingness and capacity to pursue academic or creative success. 
  • The mental and emotional fortitude to cope with stress and adversity, leading to a long, productive, and healthy life.
  • The range of hard and soft skills to be in demand in the current workforce and play important roles in organizations or succeed in their own businesses.

For all our children to thrive, it’s time to teach them the skills that will help them so they avoid many of the painful circumstances that afflict so many lives

  • Depression and traumas
  • Drug abuse
  • Crime
  • Suicide
  • Violence, including domestic
  • Poverty

These conditions undermine families, communities, and ultimately our country. They require costly interventions that are often paid for by parents, relatives, tax payers, and charities.

In short, it’s better – and cheaper – to raise emotionally healthy and capable kids than to fix broken adults.

So, how do we do this?

Parents at home do the best they can to impart values and ways of being in life in a successful way. Why not have schools back you up by teaching all our kids the essential life skills to manage life’s challenges and thrive.  

In education jargon, teaching these skills goes by the clunky name of Social-Emotional Learning. But these are the traditional – and necessary – life skills for success that develop responsible, self-managing, and caring adults. 

Let’s be sure that all our schools support your desire that your children gain the skills they need to thrive and be their best selves. And that your children attend schools where all students are learning to be, and relate to each other from, their best selves.  

See videos of the results. 

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Keeping All Kids Safe and Well

Visualizing our children safe as they work and play is a quick way to calm our fears and anxieties about their wellbeing.  But it only provides temporary solace. More focused action is needed if we want to see sustained results. 

There’s good news for parents who want to take that action. A constellation of organizations are eager to lend their support by promoting access to those programs and services that can help keep their kids safe.

Building life skills

Not-for-profit organizations like Committee for Children and EQuip Our Kids! rely on the latest research from leading university and government sources to design programs that can help youth build personal and interpersonal life skills—their lifelines to a promising future.  Observing youth who use these skills offers compelling evidence that they do indeed make a difference.  Kids learn new ways to deal with problems, so they rely less on resorting to aggression and hyperactivity.  They also learn alternate ways to deal with anxiety and depression.

Resilience promotes readiness

One of the most important life lessons we have learned from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that such skills like resilience matter. The challenges of dealing with this pandemic required us to be strong and flexible – the same critical mix of skills that kids will need in a post-pandemic era  to  make smarter decisions when faced with all the unexpected circumstances they will encounter as they grow to be adults. 

 Incorporating safety into family routines

Home-based routines can help build that resilience, reinforcing what children learn from SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum. This is especially valuable for those kids who worry about the welfare of their family, so much so that their anxiety interferes with getting enough sleep.  EQuip Our Kids!’s resource, How Incorporating Safety into Bedtime Routine Can Help Ease Your Child’s Anxiety, offers parents helpful tips for alleviating their children’s anxiety, especially during that all-important period that precedes bed time.

EQuip Our Kids! staying on course

EQuip Our Kids!,  a national nonprofit campaign, continues to lend their support  to other campaigns, such as Committee for Children, that advocate teaching youth life skills.  They recognize that parents and businesses can be important partners in advocating for the adoption of SEL (Social and emotional learning) curriculum which this nonprofit aims to include in every preK – 12 classroom by 2030.

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Seize the Moment to Talk About Social-Emotional Learning

Parents and businesses can be effective partners in promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) within their family, business and school environments. At home they can create opportunities by modeling its principles with their children.  At work businesses can work to align their policies with diversity benchmarks. 

But at school, where the opportunities may look more like challenges because teachers and administrators are often balancing competing  priorities, getting and keeping their attention to talk about SEL-based curriculum can feel like a fruitless attempt.

Break Your Message Into Short Call-For-Action Suggestions

To find a conversational opening, parents and businesses can borrow a common teacher technique:  Break their message into short call-for-action suggestions that teachers and administrators can act on without stretching their resources. 

For example, they can take cues from ten indicators listed in a recent study developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL]. These indicators, shown below, describe what a comprehensive SEL implementation looks like. Schools that don’t already offer comprehensive SEL probably won’t be able to implement everything that’s missing all at once.

Here we offer a simple call-for-action suggestion related to each indicator:

Indicator of Comprehensive SELCall to Action: Encourage Your Schools To…
1. Explicit SEL InstructionCelebrate cultural holidays
2. SEL integrated with academic instructionIncorporate cross-cultural music studies into lesson plans
3. Youth voice and engagementEngage students in a key-decision-making activity
4. Supportive school and classroom climatesEncourage inter-classroom activities
5. Focus on adult SELEncourage inter-staff activities
6. Supportive disciplineAssess whether current discipline policies are equally applied and restorative.
7. A continuum of integrated supportsEncourage SEL buy-in among staff at all levels
8. Authentic family partnershipsSuggest activities where parents can partner with school staff
9. Aligned community partnershipsInclude a community organization in a school SEL-oriented event
10. Systems for continuous improvementSuggest a process for measuring progress in SEL implementation

Appeal to Their Competitive Spirit

When encountering resistance, parents may want to try the time-tested technique of appealing to the school’s competitive spirit:  To aid their study, CASEL received survey responses from approximately 1,200 K–12 classroom teachers and 1,100 school principals.  Seventy-six percent of the principals and 53 percent of teachers nationally reported that their schools used a social and emotional learning (SEL) program or SEL curriculum materials in the 2021–2022 school year. 

There has never been a better time to join this growing movement.

If you want more ideas about how to talk with your schools about SEL, check out our guides for parents and for businesses.

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Remember, School is More Than Grades

It often looks like a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

School curricula typically favor teaching kids ‘applied knowledge.’  This is the type of knowledge that can easily be tested and graded.  But this tunnel approach often backfires later when graduates enter the workforce.  According to the recruiting firm THE PRINCIPLE GROUP, such ‘soft skills’ as effective problem solving, time management  and collaboration – skills that are given less of a priority in their curricula –  are among the top eight skills that hiring managers value in 2022.

Teachable Skills  

The non-academic ingredients for success are all teachable life skills that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum provides.  Otherwise known as EQ or Emotional Intelligence, these skills are measurable and deemed critical for creating a successful workforce, notes the National Network of Business and Industry Associations. Still just a small fraction of schools, less than 30%, include comprehensive SEL training in their curriculum.

Increasing the number of schools implementing comprehensive SEL by just one percent means approximately 400,000 more kids gaining critical skills for success in school, work, relationships, and life.

EQuip Our Kids! to the Rescue

EQuip Our Kids!,  a national nonprofit campaign, has taken the lead in raising awareness about addressing this vacuum.  We recognize that parents and businesses can be important partners in advocating for the adoption of SEL curriculum which this nonprofit aims to include in every preK – 12 classroom by 2030.

To help jump start those conversations with key school contacts, EQuip Our Kids! is now offering a free downloadable school engagement kit for parents, loaded with conversation starters and all the talking points needed to start those discussions that can influence decision-makers at the adminstration as well as teacher level to consider the critical benefits of including SEL training into their total curriculum. 

Parents can also help their children continue to  hone these SEL skills at home by taking advantage of EQuip Our Kids! weekly parenting tips

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Social and Emotional Learning Skills Offer Stress Relief for LGBTQ+ Youth

By Patricia Kutza

During the month of June, as they have done for over fifty years, LGBTQ+ youth and their allies around the world will join pride marches, celebrating their right to be accepted fully for who they are. They will march knowing that many gains have been made since the 1969 Stonewall riots spawned the Gay Rights Movement. (The riots were triggered by a police raid at the Greenwich Village-based Stonewall Inn in New York City, a popular gay bar.) But they will also march knowing full well that outside the welcoming confines of pride parades they are still seen as easy targets by those who prey on the marginalized.

There is no guarantee of safety in any spaces for those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. According to the findings of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)  more than a third of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed report being bullied in person while in school and almost as many (26.6%) bullied online. They have felt so threatened that at least 13.5% of them choose not to attend school at all.

Damaging Fallout

The fallout from marginalization and bullying casts a wide net: Spiraling depression – sometimes terminating in suicide – and risky substance abuse reflect youth grasping for coping mechanisms to ease the pain of abuse. And no LGBTQ+ youth, no matter their economic or social standing, escape its destructive effects. The actor Elliot Page, who publicly came out as transsexual in 2020, shared the accumulated effect of this harassment in a recent Esquire Magazine interview: “Bullying puts you in a place where, later, you have so much unlearning to do. If you’re getting teased and made fun of and called names on a daily basis, there’s no way that’s not going to get inside of you—particularly when you’re already feeling so much shame.” 

Too often internalizing that shame is a major contributor to increasing rate of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

Providing a Safe Place

Feeling safe is such an integral part of feeling whole that the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health recommends the earliest of reinforcement – providing supportive environments from infancy within their families and peers. Schools also act as incubators, building community awareness and capacity to understand and address stressors that contribute to the LGBTQ+ perilous experience.

Coupled with a variety of suicide-deterrence techniques that include skills and gatekeeper training and behavioral screening, evidence-based social emotional learning (SEL) programs within a school setting promote healthy life skills, well-being, and a positive school environment. According to a 2019 Committee for Children report, its emphasis on self-awareness, self-management and social awareness strategies create  spaces where kids can feel safe expressing their identities.

Alleviating Hopelessness by Investing in SEL

Self-esteem builds on self-awareness and makes youth more willing and capable of using stress management skills to cope with stress. Finding strategies that work often helps alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Cultivating social relationships also mitigates feelings of hopelessness, creating a less lonely environment by lowering feelings of anxiety which increase the risk of suicide.

Investing in SEL strategies at the school level offers LGBTQ+ youth a safety net, protecting them from abuse while strengthening the skills they need to fortify themselves in a world that is slow to offer the feeling of safety they deserve.

About the author:

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Jay Levin on The Great Resignation and the Future of Work

To build the more human workforce of the future, we need to start teaching all kids Emotional Intelligence skills right now. Emotional Intelligence is often call EQ. It’s like IQ for your heart.

A workforce that is curious, empathetic, imaginative, motivated, and purposeful doesn’t start with someone’s first day on the job. It starts in schools and families and communities. Businesses need to get behind this effort in a big way, or else they’ll be way behind the curve very quickly.

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