A Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Coach is a relatively newer type of support position in K-12 schools. An SEL coach helps to organize the people, resources, and tasks that must take place during SEL implementation. Schools need SEL coaches or lead implementers to help with the heavy lift of systems change. Individuals with expertise and training can help to solve the unique challenges that SEL implementation creates; challenges that can include resistance from educators to implementing SEL with their students. This resistance is seen by responses like, “I don’t have time for this” or “No one trained me in SEL” or “This is not my job.” I’ve encountered these same concerns during my time consulting with schools across the country. It is common for individuals to push back on things they see as new or unnecessary.
This pushback is one reason why your school needs an SEL Coach. It is the SEL coach who helps educators understand the positive outcomes and works toward resolving barriers that may come up during implementation, barriers that can delay or even stop any innovation from occurring due to misunderstanding or lack of prioritization. One of the most common barriers includes an understanding of what SEL is and is not. In my work, one of the first things I ask is for the entire staff to define SEL, often resulting in a variety of answers. And if we do not have a common understanding of what SEL is, how can we possibly be on the same page for how to improve our social and emotional competencies?
Decades of research demonstrate the efficacy of social emotional learning, but it is only effective and sustained if it is integrated across grade levels, if it is a whole-school approach that infuses SEL into practices and policies, if there is ongoing training and consultation, and if it provides engagement with families and community partners in program selection, refinement, and improvement and reinforcement of skill development at home (Brackett, Bailey, Hoffman & Simmons, 2019). An SEL Coach can work with their schools in developing processes and practices that are sustainable.
There are many different ways that the SEL coach can be a value add in your school. In The SEL Coach: Planning and Implementation Resources for Social Emotional Learning Leaders, I elaborate on six roles that the SEL coach can play in your school.
1. Be the “face” of your SEL implementation.
When implementing any change in a school system, there will be questions and concerns. The SEL Coach can be a “go to” person in the system to provide resources and support to educators engaging in this new level of skill development. SEL Coaches look at the micro and macro level outcomes of different practices and develop partnerships across the school system to develop goals and action plans.
2. Work side by side with educators in teaching, practicing, and modeling social and emotional competencies.
One of the primary goals of the SEL Coach is to help educational stakeholders learn and be able to effectively implement SEL practices and interventions. They teach and model effective practices that teachers can use in their classrooms, using varied coaching techniques based on individual needs.
3. Monitor progress and aid in decision making process.
To improve outcomes for students, schools must strategically measure and monitor the progress of their SEL implementation. The SEL Coach helps determine whether the students are attaining social and emotional competencies as a result of implementation.
4. Engage staff in learning and advocating for their needs in the process of SEL implementation.
The SEL Coach can lead professional development sessions and train educational stakeholders on effective SEL practices to create awareness and understanding of core SEL concepts. The SEL Coach uses multiple modalities to keep educators engaged.
5. Share practices used by different stakeholders throughout the system.
Communication is important for your SEL implementation. The SEL coach listens actively, summarizes, and makes actionable the things that are needed by the stakeholders. This position is designed to work within collaborative relationships with different individuals and teams throughout the school.
6. Empower other educators through teaming
The SEL Coach works toward establishing commitment of team members at school. The SEL team is another crucial component of implementation. Teams are responsible for determining practices that will likely have the best outcomes to meet student and staff needs, piloting those interventions, and using a data-based decision-making process. The SEL Coach is responsible for creating an environment that is both supportive and focused on achieving school goals.
When learning about social emotional learning, we are developing a new schema or way of thinking about our students. We are helping to promote understanding of how social and emotional competencies impact students’ personal and academic lives. And let’s not forget the educators, as social and emotional competency development can lessen burnout and compassion fatigue. The SEL Coach can support new understandings and practices that benefit ALL in your education system. And that is why it is something schools need.
Brackett, M., Bailey, C., Hoffman, J., & Simmons, D. (2019). RULER: A theory driven, systemic approach to social, emotional, and academic learning. Educational Psychologist, 54(3), 144–161. https://doi. org/10.1080/00461520.2019.161444