Tukwila, WA

Kids Coaching Adults with SEL

When Anne Marie Littleton, a social worker at Cascade View Elementary School in Tukwila, WA, first started teaching social-emotional learning (SEL) to her students, she saw widespread positive effects. Ms. Littleton especially saw an increase in her students’ coping skills: “I notice that my students now have access to more coping tools when dealing with strong emotions. I hear them coaching each other about what to do if they are angry (take deep breaths, count slowly, say nice things to themselves),” she says.

Students Coaching Adults

And once the students could manage their emotions for themselves, they began to share their knowledge with the adults around them. Ms. Littleton’s students tell her that “they’ve coached their parents how to calm down when their parents were stressed, and I hear teachers commenting on how so-and-so suggested that the teacher take some deep breaths if they were feeling frustrated. They seem happily surprised that kids are capable of applying this skill in the heat of the moment when emotions have flared.”

Real-Life Issues

Ms. Littleton believes SEL has an important place in her school’s curriculum, as evidenced by her students’ eagerness to participate in the lessons: “It’s like they are thirsty to talk about real-life issues. Whenever I come into the classroom to do Second Step lessons, the kids get so excited and engaged, like they are finally going to get to talk about stuff that really matters to them“ Sixty percent of Cascade View’s student body speaks a first language other than English, but “even my newcomer students can relate . . . and are able to participate nonverbally.”

When Ms. Littleton began adding SEL-based bullying prevention lessons (in the form of the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit), she says she noticed her students “identifying bullying situations quickly and acting to help themselves or a classmate if bullying is happening.”

A Solid Teaching Tool

In the end, says Ms. Littleton, SEL completes her social workers’ proverbial toolbox, making her mission “so much easier. It’s fantastic to have a teaching tool that is so solid and so exciting for the kids.”