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1.2 Social Emotional Learning and Healthy Teens

photo by Aedrian on Unsplash

What was your biggest challenge at junior high school? Was it determining how the central themes of The Outsiders apply to your life and could possibly be written in a 500-word essay? Was it completing fitness runs for the umpteenth time with your awkwardly growing body? Was it isolating the variable to find the length of the homerun hit when all you cared about was getting to second base? When would you actually need any of this stuff in real life, anyway?

I’m happy to report that tweens and teens today are still grappling with those same questions, even if the expressions of their generation and some of their behaviours seem strange to adults. Throw in a pandemic during their formative years, their basic insecurities, an uncertain response from parents around issues of gender identity and sexuality, the very real presence of racism and violence, and it is no wonder that anxiety and depression are increasing.

The Core Competencies

To become resilient, it is necessary to struggle with these questions, and I believe it is entirely appropriate that learning in school is framed around gaining some basic skills to advance personal development. You will notice that each of the questions involved some element of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and that they are also wrapped up around academics and elective coursework. It is because these questions are so critical to a young person’s development that they are considered Core Competencies in the BC curriculum and why every single Competency Based Inclusive Education Plan (BCIEP) elaborates objectives and strategies by which to gain these skills.

Children who receive SEL training become teens who have stronger skills to handle the regular challenges of life, better self-esteem and attitudes toward others, more positive behvaviours, and higher academic achievement (Durlak et al., 2011). They also demonstrate lower rates of aggression, problematic behaviour, and emotional distress. (Durlak et al., 2011). Who doesn’t want that for their teens moving forward into adulthood?

Social Emotional Learning BC Network, a group of educators and researchers, made recommendations based on their findings about the implementation and sustainability of SEL programs in schools. They believe the highest utility toward increasing meaningful SEL skills is to train teachers and to use an inquiry approach, both school-wide and at the district level (SEL Considerations, 2015). It makes sense to me that SEL healthy teachers would provide support at school, and I wonder what resources are available to help in-service teachers. (Some useful sites/sources are listed in my references—check them out). I also wonder about what training is being provided to pre-service teachers, especially considering how tough this profession can be on young, inexperienced teachers (Hymel et al., 2017). I’d like to know if anyone has any favourite strategies for incorporating SEL into their school’s regular activities, especially around academics and reporting on the Core Competencies.

References and Resources

BC Centre for Ability, Social Emotional Health, retrieved July 15, 2023 from

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.

Edutopia, Why Social and Emotional Learning is Essential for Students, retrieved July 15, 2023 from

Hymel, S., Low, A. M., Starosta, L., Gill, R., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2017). Promoting Mental Well-Being Through Social-Emotional Learning in Schools: Examples from British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 36(4), 97–107.

Secondary SEL Teacher Supports, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, June 2020, retrieved July 15, 2023 from

SEL BC, How do BC's competencies map onto the 5 areas of SEL?, retrieved July 17 from

We Are Teachers, 38 Simple ways to integrate social-emotional learning throughout the day, retrieved July 15, 2023, from


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