Social Emotional Learning Priorities

Students today have a long list of interests vying for their attention and can easily be distracted from the main reasons they attend school: to learn in a safe and structured environment that rewards creativity and hard work.

Aside from academic pursuits, the classroom is also a place where children can learn about diversity, different cultures, appropriate behaviors and response tactics, and boundaries and rules.

These lessons may seem intuitive, but are often learned by trial and error, or in crisis when folks may be responding emotionally, rather than practically.

Incorporating empathy into daily activities and instruction through Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is one way to cohesively provide proactive and positive behavior practices for better classroom management and instruction, as well as lifelong benefits for students.

Life Skills

Why does this matter? Social and Emotional Learning teaches students to understand and – perhaps more importantly – manage their emotions, and develop a range of competencies in communication, conflict resolution and other life skills.

Through an evidence-based curriculum developed by education and behavioral specialists and child advocates, school professionals will model and teach behaviors essential to healthy lifestyles and the prevention of illness and violence.

And the research backs it up. SEL has been shown to improve attendance and graduation rates, reduce suspensions and disciplinary actions, and, improve academic growth. Teachers love SEL because it gives them a proactive tool to help students better express their needs and to ensure better classroom management and academic outcomes.

Navigating Life Successfully

These lessons will move with students throughout their life, helping them navigate more intricate work and interpersonal relationships, loss and the pressing demands of “adulthood.”

This is a very promising return on a minimal investment. But it will require the commitment of the district, teachers, parents, and the community, which will, in turn, provide critical access to needed preventive and treatment services.

If elected as District 2 representative to Brevard Schools, I will work to advance the awareness and importance of SEL to parents, teachers, district administrators and the community with evidence-based information and open, honest dialog.

My work as a former school social worker convinces me that SEL will enrich and enhance the learning experience for students here, not only by improving district requirements for attendance and better academic outcomes, but also by preparing our students to be better citizens of tomorrow.

Cheryl McDougall, a retired school social worker, is running for District 2 representative. From her work as a psychiatric nurse to school social worker to a 10-year leadership role in a managed medical health organization, Cheryl has dedicated her career to helping others and brings a wealth of hands-on and negotiation skills to this demanding role. Campaigning on three tenets: Increasing Teacher Salaries; Integrating Social Emotional Learning into existing school learning requirements; and Developing an Inclusive Community Advisory Board – comprised of school faculty, administration, parents, business owners and students – to help celebrate district successes and identify and address district needs, Ms. McDougall has been endorsed by the Brevard Federation of Teachers, Space Coast Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, The Florida Puerto Rican /Hispanic Minority Empowerment Committee and the Space Coast Progressive Alliance. For more information, email her directly at

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