Building SEL for Kids, Families and Schools

Building People: Social-Emotional Learning for Kids, Families, Schools and Communities
Edited by Tamara Fyke
(Abingdon Press, 2018 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

This book is much like a written panel discussion on the current state of social emotional learning. Each of the twelve authors have written a chapter to address: (1) The current state of SEL; (2) The cost of maintaining the status quo; (3) Forecast for the future; and (4) Pathways to success.

Additionally, some authors include a section on the origins of SEL, and all chapters are followed by editor’s reflection questions and notes (further readings, etc.).

While the twelve authors come from diverse backgrounds and include some well-known names in the education community, including Rebecca Townsend, Peter Dewitt and Baruti Kafele, the book achieves a general consensus on the topic of social emotional learning.

The various contributors seem to agree that the emergence of SEL in education has been a gradual process and that there are now a variety of very different “programs” being marketed as SEL curriculum. This has made ferreting out the effects of incorporating SEL into the curriculum of our schools challenging.

They authors also seem to agree that SEL is needed in our society and our schools, and should not be a stand-alone course but rather should be incorporated across the curriculum. They also agree that there are a variety of obstacles to be overcome as we move forward with SEL because in the past children were expected to begin school with the SEL skill set. Now, as we go further into the digital age, the need for SEL skills development seems to be more of an issue.

If you are interested in reading a somewhat one-sided overview of social emotional learning from different areas in the country, and what SEL might look like going forward, this book presents an organized set of relatively short descriptions, most less than 10 pages, from twelve well-qualified authors. In addition it provides solid reflective questions to help you consider how SEL applies to your own setting, how you might act on the information, and where to get more information.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is currently a Middle School Gifted Math and Science teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees in her school district, works closely with the local university, and writes curriculum. She is also a professional development consultant, and previously served as an Exceptional Student Education Specialist, and as a mentor.

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