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Social & Emotional Learning

Known as "SEL" for short, social and emotional learning is the process through which individuals acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to:

  • Understand and manage emotions
  • Set and achieve positive goals
  • Feel and show empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships
  • Make responsible decisions

For children, this process provides an environment that helps foster supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging and meaningful.

To achieve this, all classrooms within District 401 have incorporated an SEL curriculum:

  • Grades PK-8 use the Second Step program.
  • Grades 9-12 use the RULER program.

Core Competencies and Our Vision for SEL

One of the nation's leaders in SEL research, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), has identified five core competencies that systematic SEL instruction seeks to develop in students:

  • SELF-AWARENESS — the ability to know one's strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism and a "growth mindset."
  • SELF-MANAGEMENT — the ability to effectively manage stress, control impulses and motivate oneself to set and achieve goals.
  • SOCIAL AWARENESS — the ability to understand the perspectives of others and empathize with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  • RELATIONSHIP SKILLS — among other skills, the ability to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure, negotiate conflict constructively, and seek and offer help when needed.
  • RESPONSIBLE DECISION-MAKING — the ability to make constructive choices about behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety and social norms.
  • With these competencies in mind, District 401 has engaged in a multi-year initiative to build a continuum of SEL supports across all grades. 

    Our vision is to seamlessly integrate SEL into the academic environment by using a variety of research-based programs, along with staff development, to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to be successful learners.

    CASEL's five core competencies serve as the foundation for our SEL instruction at each grade level, from early childhood to high school.

Social Justice League

In 2016, the District formed a committee called the Social Justice League (SJL) to support social emotional initiatives within our schools — including the use of restorative practices in response to passage of Senate Bill 100 — and to help create a long-term plan for implementing SEL instruction at all grade levels.

SJL comprises a cross-section of District personnel, including administrators, teachers, school social workers, speech therapists and other service staff members.

The committee works to provide professional development opportunities for staff members on such topics as SEL concepts and techniques, restorative approaches, classroom management strategies and the effect of trauma on learning.

In 2019, SJL's efforts to incorporate social and emotional learning into our classrooms earned the group a Those Who Excel Team Recognition Award from the Illinois State Board of Education.

The success of the Social Justice League reflects District 401's dedication to creating a positive learning environment for all of our students, with SEL an essential component of instruction.

SEL Curricular Programs

As noted above, all classrooms within the District teach an SEL curriculum:

  • Grades PK-8 put into practice the Second Step program.
  • Grades 9-12 incorporate the RULER program.

During the 2018-19 school year, various staff members at District 401 schools covering grades PK-8 began piloting SEL instruction in their classrooms using the Second Step curriculum. 

At the same time, teachers at the high school learned how to use the RULER program for SEL instruction in their respective classes.

Beginning in 2019-20, all classrooms within the District implemented their respective SEL curriculum.

All of this was done in support of our core commitment to strengthening our students’ social-emotional growth and development in addition to their academic growth and readiness.

District 401's Policy on SEL

Our implementation of SEL curriculum and instruction is governed by District 401's policy on student social and emotional development, which can be found in Section 6:65 of the Board of Education's District Policy Manual.

Learn More with "Parkside Chat" SEL Podcast

To learn more about how we have incorporated SEL into our curriculum and into our everyday practices, we invite you to listen to our "Parkside Chat" podcast on that topic, Episode 3: "Social Emotional Learning," released on Oct. 23, 2018.

Click below to listen. For a direct link to this episode on, please click here.