by L. Z., Saratoga
In highly competitive academic environments, the question of a healthy and emotional life is often forgotten by teachers and even parents. School counselors are not trained to help students with other problems or conflicts in their lives, especially if the student is performing well academically. However, social-emotional problems are a significant factor in both the student’s personal life and ability to learn effectively. Therefore, schools should create an SEL program because the type of lessons it teaches are absolutely essential in effectively educating a student: learning in a school environment is fundamentally social, and emotional development is crucial for any future career path.
Most public high schools have at least twenty students in one class, and the connection classmates form with each other can be just as important as those formed with the teacher. When they feel comfortable socially, students can help each other learn by sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other. Additionally, students are also often more comfortable asking questions with their peers and can reduce the strain on the teacher to personally explain. For example, one students may understand a concept others do not. By explaining the concept to their classmates, they will remember it more deeply themselves while also helping others. Students who feel isolated in classrooms are less willing to speak up and participate both in small groups and in the class as a whole. If social-emotional learning programs could teach students to make friends and maintain friendships, they would facilitate the learning process for many students.
Furthermore, a school’s purpose is to prepare students for what comes next in their lives. If schools only prepared the students academically, students would be incapable of functioning in their lives. High school specifically is a period of tremendous emotional and personal growth, and schools should ensure that this growth is headed in the right direction; if a student cannot manage emotions like fear, anger, and depression in high school, they will likely struggle to manage such emotions in college or their occupation as well. While some may argue that social and emotional growth belongs to other institutions, the reality is that many students do not have other sources that they can depend upon. Furthermore, even if a school’s purpose is strictly academic, emotional growth is inextricably tied to academic growth. Students who are capable of managing their emotions and have higher self-esteem naturally perform better academically. Therefore, if schools intend to foster academic growth, they must establish SEL programs.
Ultimately, high school students just like middle and elementary school students still need help developing self-esteem, managing their emotions, feeling and expressing empathy, making friends and maintaining friendships, and making responsible decisions. Schools should provide this help through SEL programs, but the SEL programs in question must be relatable and helpful to the students. School administrations must be more aware of what students need and how to provide them with what they need in order for SEL programs to be effective: one solution to the problem is letting students vote on what topics they consider most important to address and listening to feedback on the programs. In order for high schools to truly educate their students, they must expand the scope of their goal to encompass social and emotionally learning because they are tied to academic growth as well as future success.