Serving Students with SEL

During a recent conversation with a colleague who is in charge of social-emotional learning (SEL) for a large school district, we wondered how schools would respond to this question, “What services should be provided to the students you serve?” Preparing students to thrive academically might be a top answer; however, the ideas that seemed most compelling to us aligned with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety, love, and belonging). Given the transcendent and enduring nature of these human needs – a sense of trust and connectedness with both peers and adults; a belief that your presence matters; that you have the skills necessary to meet life’s challenges – they are often the focus of both SEL and mental health education.

In my work with the Center for the Collaborative Classroom, I support early elementary school teachers who strive to equip their students with the ABCs: autonomy, belonging, and competence. In an SEL context, these can come to life in a number of ways.

  • Autonomy – teachers empower students with choice in day-to-day activities; explain the reasons behind classroom rules; and encourage students to have a voice in decisions that pertain to them.
  • Belonging – students feel part of an inclusive classroom community that fosters respectful and supportive relationships; norms are created that reflect shared values and are upheld by students even when “no one is watching.”
  • Competence – students feel a sense of efficacy in navigating social and academic situations; intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are taught and practiced so students can apply them in various real-life situations; students collaborate with and help one another given their confidence and sense of collective responsibility. 
Erika’s Lighthouse Programs

Erika’s Lighthouse Classroom Education Programs and Teen Empowerment Clubs extend these SEL learning opportunities in developmentally appropriate ways for older students. The Levels 1-3 Education programs employ skills-based introductions to the elements of mental health and encourage help-seeking behaviors so students maintain a sense of connection and belonging even if going through a tough time. Employing student leaders in Teen Empowerment Clubs not only honors students’ sense of autonomy by validating their voice and wisdom but also reduces the stigma teens often feel when wrestling with depression or other mental health challenges. Awareness into Action campaigns promote a sense of belonging while equipping students to advocate for mental health in a way that builds their confidence and competence.

Regardless of the age of the students you serve, how do you meet their social, emotional, and mental health needs? 

About us

Erika’s Lighthouse is a not-for-profit that is dedicated to ensuring no young person feels alone in their depression. We are dedicated to creating a community of empathy and education. We create upper elementary, middle school, and high school mental health, depression, and suicide awareness programs so educators, families, and teens can create safe spaces to learn about mental health, letting students know they are never alone, and that there is somewhere to turn.