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Social Emotional Learning Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, Even at a Distance

Updated on
Modified on June 22, 2023
  • Remote Learning
  • Science of Reading
  • SEL
  • Social-Emotional Literacy

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LETRS For Early Childhood Educators

You all know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right?

Do you know what this hierarchy was originally called? It was a new learning for me while listening to the recent webinar by Drs. Jessica and John Hannigan, SEL from a Distance: Building a Framework of Processes into your School/District to Guarantee Student Success.

They described a number of emotional, mental health, and behavioral concerns displayed by our students and shared some solemn statistics. Probably not surprising to you is that these concerns have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, impacting our basic needs, so well described on Maslow’s hierarchy.

Think of the concerning behaviors your students may be exhibiting. In listing these concerns, the Hannigans remind us to determine what underdeveloped skill may be contributing to these challenging behaviors.

For example, a student displaying a lack of engagement may lack self-discipline; giving up early may reflect an issue with self-efficacy; disruptive behavior is connected to impulse control; and apathy is likely linked to social awareness. Consider what stage or level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs students may be experiencing and impacting their educational performance. We know that, for any of us, basic needs must be met for learning to occur. What basic needs are or are not being met? Does the student feel a sense of physical and emotional safety? Is there a feeling of community? What does self-esteem and confidence look like? At the top of the hierarchy, what are levels of motivation? How many of your concerning behaviors are connected somehow to motivation? I suspect many of them are.

So, back to the question of the original name of Maslow’s hierarchy. You may not be surprised that the hierarchy was first called the “Ladder of Motivation,” describing the continuum of needs, leading to learning. Motivation is a key connection. Embedding Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into the “fabric” of everything we do in our educational programs helps to facilitate motivation, leading to better learning outcomes.

Social emotional learning contributes to many positive aspects of academic and life success. SEL helps us understand and manage our emotions, build a sense of resilience, and contributes to being able to establish and maintain positive relationships. SEL supports our ability to attend to our own feelings, learn to take others’ perspectives, and develop empathy. In addition, SEL helps us set and achieve positive goals and make responsible decisions.

So, what is your motivation for incorporating SEL into the “fabric” of your educational programming? The Hannigans provided practical strategies and processes you can easily incorporate into your student interactions.

They referenced the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning website (CASEL.org), which is a valuable resource describing SEL along with much of the scientific research that supports the use of SEL in our educational settings.

Check out these supports and see how they match up with what you are already doing.

SEL helps us attend to our students’ needs, both academically and emotionally, which is truly the heart of teaching in person and, in this time of COVID, from a distance.


Watch SEL From A Distance Webinar

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LETRS For Early Childhood Educators

About the Author
Dr. Lucy Hart Paulson
Author of Good Talking Words

Dr. Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, is an author and literacy specialist with a mission of bringing research to practice. She is also a speech-language pathologist with years of experience working with educators and young children and their families in a range of educational settings. In addition, Hart Paulson was an associate professor teaching and conducting research in the areas of language and literacy development and disorders. She provides professional development using a broad-based perspective blending areas of language and literacy together resulting in effective, appropriate, and engaging language-based literacy instruction and intervention for all children. Additionally, she is the co-author of Good Talking Words, a social-communication skills program for young children; LETRS® for Early Childhood Educators, 2nd Edition; and Building Early Literacy and Language Skills, a resource and activity guide for young children.

Learn more about Dr. Lucy Hart Paulson