Why Teachers Need Social-Emotional Skills (SEC)

SEC refers to the process of integrating thinking, feeling, and behaving in order to become aware of the self and of others, make responsible decisions, and manage one’s own behaviors and those of others. Intervention programs focused on SEC are designed to facilitate this process in systematic and comprehensive ways within schools and districts. Relationships and emotional processes affect how and what we learn. By reducing misbehavior and the amount of time spent on classroom management, SEC programs create more time for teaching and learning.

Efforts to promote SEC in schools align with the views of leading economists who have been calling for a greater focus on what have been traditionally referred to as “soft” skills. 

Investing in emotion skills is a cost-effective approach to increasing the quality and productivity of the workforce through fostering workers’ motivation, perseverance, and self-control. For teachers, these skills are imperative not only for their personal well-being but to improve student learning.  According to Patricia Jennings and Mark Greenberg, leading scientists in the field of social-emotional learning, teachers who possess social-emotional competencies (SEC) are less likely to experience burnout because they’re able to work more effectively with challenging students.

More schools are working to change school culture through programs aimed at improving the social and emotional skills of students. The lessons directly teach young people how to interact with one another in positive ways, deal with anger, and solve problems, and new studies show they improve academic performance, too. As more schools try this approach, researchers have begun paying closer attention to the effects of social and emotional learning on behavior and academic achievement.

That research is showing that SEC is crucial to mitigating the social problems that inherently exist in schools and detract from learning. These programs are much more than an anti-bullying strategy – they teach life skills.

For example, instead of quickly resorting to punishments, teachers with SEC recognize their students’ emotions and have insight into what’s causing them, which then helps teachers respond with compassionate understanding when a student is acting out—and re-direct the students’ behavior appropriately. If, for instance, a teacher knows that a student is acting out because of problems at home, that teacher may be more likely to treat the student with kindness. This sort of response promotes caring and supportive relationships between teachers and students—a key to reducing both student behavior problems, possibly by as much as 30 percent, and teachers’ emotional exhaustion.

Educators with SEC also create warm and safe classroom climates, fostered by strong classroom management skills. In these kinds of classrooms, the teacher and students practice respectful communication and problem-solving; transitions from one activity to another run smoothly; and lessons are designed to encourage student engagement and love-of-learning—all of which promote academic achievement and create a positive feedback loop for teachers, sustaining their passion for teaching.

Defining SEC

​The list below identifies five core competencies associated with SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision making. 


Accurately assessing one’s feelings, interests, values, and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence


Regulating one’s emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting and monitoring progress toward personal and academic goals; expressing emotions appropriately

Social awareness

Taking the perspective of and empathizing with others; recognizing and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences; recognizing and using family, school, and community resources

Relationship management

Establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding cooperative relationships; resisting inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflict; seeking help when needed

Responsible decision making

Making decisions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate social norms, respect for others, and probable consequences of various actions; applying decision-making skills to academic and social situations; contributing to the well-being of one’s school and community

Schools increasingly are implementing school-wide SEC policies and curricula in order to foster caring relationships between teachers and students, cooperation and conflict reduction among students, a greater sense of school safety, and the development of social and emotional skills in students, teachers, and school leaders.

​The SEC programs at the Teacher Training Academy of the ICTID Center are designed to focus on specific social or emotional variables, such as preventing bullying, substance abuse, unhealthy sexual practices, delinquency, or violence; or promoting character development, career preparation, family life, community service, or physical or mental health create learning environments that meet the developmental needs of students, including feelings of belonging, safety, and community, and thus provide ideal conditions for success across the domains of their lives – academics, relationships, personal, and ultimately in the workforce.

​​Social-emotional competencies (SEC) in learning

There is growing recognition in Europe and around the world that schools must meet the social and emotional developmental needs of students for effective teaching and learning to take place and for students to reach their full potential. Numerous research reports show that the development of social and emotional competencies can have a positive impact on students' academic performance.  Social emotional learning strengthens students' relationships with their peers, families, and teachers, who are mediators, collaborators, and encouragers of academic achievement.

In our Teacher Training Academy we stress the importance of caring teacher-student and student-student relationships in fostering students' commitment to school and in promoting academic success. Safe learning environments that encourage and reinforce positive classroom behavior have been identified by research as one of the necessary conditions for academic achievement​​​

Teacher Academy of ICTIDC develops a wide range of SEC programs and courses, targeting teachers at all levels of education.