Mastering social emotional development is key for teachers and leaders in Pre-K to secondary


By Lynne Celli, Ph.D., School of Education, Endicott College


Teachers and administrators are increasingly being called upon to be aware of their own social emotional development in order to work successfully with students who need to master the subject to succeed in school and in life. It is a relatively new discipline to be applied in classrooms at all levels, from Pre-K to Secondary School.

The trend comes as we have learned that social emotional development is critical to a child’s ultimate success, one that has an impact on just about all aspects of social interaction. It is the process through which children learn to experience and express emotion and it’s essential to their ability to develop meaningful relationships throughout their lives, personally, academically and professionally.

We have found that preparing teachers to work with students on these issues is important to their overall ability to learn and function well in in the classroom and in society in general. Sadly, many of these skills are lacking in some children and, often, teachers need to become aware of their own social skills in order to impart them on others. Thus, teaching social emotional development begins with self-awareness for the educator.

It is not a class we teach directly, but rather a series of lessons we incorporate in all we do to ensure that children and young adults grow as people. Education, we now know, is not solely teaching facts and figures.

According to a 2019 study from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development, children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, character traits, and values to succeed in school and careers. The commission’s report says, “They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the ability to think critically, consider diverse views, and problem solve. And these social, emotional, and academic capacities are increasingly demanded in the American workplace, which puts a premium on the ability to work in diverse teams, grapple with difficult problems, and adjust to rapid change.”

Social Emotional Development can be broken into five distinct areas:

  • Self-management – Managing emotions and behaviors to achieve one’s goals.
  • Self-awareness – Recognizing one’s emotions and values as well as one’s strengths and limitations.
  • Social awareness – Showing understanding and empathy for others.
  • Responsible decision-making – Making ethical, constructive choices about personal and social behavior.
  • Relationship skills – Forming positive relationships, working in teams, dealing effectively with conflict.

At Endicott College, where I teach, and at other institutions throughout the U.S. (and overseas), we are training both teachers and business leaders with an integrated, connected approach to understanding and implementing the research about social emotional development as an overarching premise of the educational process, rather than something that is added to an already demanding Pre-K to Secondary Education curriculum.

Examples of courses include:

  • Construction of Self-Learning
  • Mindfulness
  • Social/Emotional Competence
  • Professional Ethics
  • Understanding and Engaging in Helping Relationship
  • Promoting an Educational Culture that embraces researched-based theories and practice for social emotional development
  • Leadership in School-wide Implementation of Social Emotional Development: Integration of Theory and Practice
  • Internships (Part I, Part II and Thesis)

Specifically, there are many tools we employ to integrate social emotional learning throughout the school day. With the youngest children, we may begin the day with a greeting, or use “story time” and playing games to teach lessons. At the older levels, encouraging children to work in groups can enhance their cooperative and leadership skills. For all age groups, encouraging kindness while discouraging poor behavior like bullying is helpful, as is teaching mediation, compromise and mutual respect.

These are “all-day” activities that can be incorporated in nearly all aspects of teaching.

Designed for everyone from novice teachers to seasoned administrators in Pre-K to Secondary School, programs are needed for those working toward their first master’s degrees, those seeking recertification and those pursuing additional master’s degrees and credentialing for administrative or collective bargain purposes.



Dr. Lynne M. Celli has a career in education spanning pre-K through higher ed, including her most recent position as Dean of Graduate Education at the Van Loan School at Endicott College. Her research interests are in high quality teaching strategies, student learning styles and the evolving professoriate. Dr. Celli has authored, co-authored, and contributed to many publications and articles and has presented at conferences in the U.S. and abroad. She is author of The Power of the Professoriate: Demands, Challenges, and Opportunities in 21st Century Higher Education. Dr. Celli holds a Ph.D. from Boston College and serves on a number of boards for peer-reviewed publications.