Your reach as an educator is vast! 

In other words, you have so much potential and so many opportunities to make a difference in your students’ lives.

I don’t know about you, but I got into teaching to do just that. 

I wanted to make a difference in my students’ lives through the curriculum that I could teach.  I desired to make them better writers and be able to express themselves in powerful ways.  I pushed to help them understand math and think critically.  I strived to help them see the world through new perspectives by studying history, and art, and help them to create new pieces to share with others.

However, some students took to my teachings, others resisted. 

Looking back, as a first year teacher back in 1999, I didn’t always know how to handle that.  I didn’t always understand why students wouldn’t take advantage of their time in school.


Lack of SEL Teacher Training Led to SEAL!


You see, beyond the typical classroom management trainings, not all teachers learn what to do when a student is in need.


This Covid experience has made it very apparent that we need to build in time for students to develop their social and emotional skills.


Keep in mind, you don’t need to be a trained therapist to help your students develop these SEL skills.  You just need to be a caring, creative teacher.


My name’s Elizabeth Peterson.  I’m a teacher and the creator of SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning where we couple the best of what the Arts have with the ever-growing need to help students develop their social-emotional skills.


Teachers play a huge role in their students’ social-emotional learning!  Whether or not we want to, we do.  So, if you want to know what that role is and how you can make the best of that role, keep watching.  

Today I want to share 5 tips for how to be that positive role model for your students when it comes to SEL.


Student Behavior and What It Truly Means


First, I must remind you of something.  

When students show unfavorable behaviors, that is usually as sign that they are in need.

Let’s face it, when a kid misbehaves our initial reaction is to hand out a punishment, say something unkind, or even be dismissive.  I know I’m guilty of having done that.

We need to remind ourselves that misbehavior isn’t always about us as teachers.  We need to remember to not automatically take things personally. 

Here’s the thing: giving students a punishment won’t work. 

Think about it.  Giving a time out where a student has to “think about their choices” or sending a kid to in-school suspension where they are often left to their own devices is not going to help anyone — especially the kid.

Students won’t always understand what they did and won’t understand how to process their behavior on their own. 

Unfortunately, they could also figure out how to get back to their punishment place so that they can avoid work or other people.


Students (of all ages) need a point of reference, an understanding of what they do need to do or how they can react in certain situations.  If they don’t get that and are left to their own devices, we’re all doing that student a disservice.


Do I speak from experience?  HECK YA! 

For example, I’ve put my own children in time outs.  I’ve been dismissive to students who are behaving badly.   I get how hard it can be at times. 

It’s only been through my own SEAL Teacher training, that I’ve been able to adjust my own thoughts and behaviors to better handle a variety of situations in the classroom.


Let’s Get Started!


Tip #1: Pause and Discuss


First, if something is happening in your classroom, don’t be afraid to pause your lesson and discuss what’s happening.  

For example, I’ve had instances when a student starts screaming and runs out of the room.  After knowing that that student is being taken care of by other adults, I’ve had to pause the lesson and use some time to help the other students in the classroom.  

Pressing forward with the curriculum is not a good idea for anyone.  (But it can be the go-to thing if you are at a loss of what to do.)  For example, you can pause the lesson and simply say something like, “Nicole’s having a really hard time right now, but I know that ‘Mrs. Helpful Lady’ is helping her through.  The best thing we can do right now is be patient and kind with Nicole when she returns to class.”

The thing is, your students may want to (and need to) discuss more and that’s ok.  Without going overboard, allowing your other students time to process things is really important for their emotional well-being.


Tip #2: Be Proactive and Explicit in Your Social-Emotional Teaching


Second, one thing I love about teaching SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning is that it is proactive and explicit.  I talk a lot more about that in this video about Why I Teach SEAL.  You can find that on my YouTube Channel! 


With SEAL, students are not only practicing social and emotional skills through engaging, artistic experiences, but you are talking about what they are doing AS they are doing it.


Practicing these skills is the proactive part.  You need to practice these types of skills before you need them or else they won’t work.

Talking about what your learning through SEAL is the explicit part.  It’s so important for students to understand what they are learning and why.


Tip #3: Integrate SEL With What You Are Teaching


Third, one way to be proactive and explicit with your Social-Emotional Teaching is to integrate SEL into whatever you are teaching.

For example, if you are reading a book, take some time to talk about the characters’ personalities and behaviors and how they relate to social and emotional skills.  Doing character studies and really being explicit about SEL is such a good use of time.

Integrating the Social-Emotional Learning students do while creating and responding to art is a critical part of SEAL.  If you are an Arts teacher, consider how you can weave Social-Emotional Learning into your lessons.  

If you teach other content, like history or math or science, find ways to talk about some of the SEL components that make up the lessons or activities you are doing.  Maybe students are working collaboratively or trying to manage their time to work on homework.  There are Social-Emotional Lessons in nearly everything we do and teach.


Tip #4: Role Model Body Language, Facial Expressions and Kind Words


One of my colleagues would often say, “Fix your face!” and as much as this made us laugh, it is also so true!

Being aware of your body language, facial expressions and the words that come out of your mouth is pretty important.   Because, let’s face it, our students notice everything!


Pause yourself every so often and check in on your face, the way you use your hands, and how you position your body when addressing your students.  And above all, always use kind words.  


Many teachers, and I know I’ve been guilty of this, use sarcasm to try and be funny.  However, sarcasm often is interpreted as mean or rude.  For this reason, it’s best to just leave it out of your verbiage. 


Tip #5: Be Creative and Engaging!


In conclusion, one reason why I love SEAL is that it is based in Arts integration.  In other words, the strategies and lessons are Arts-based and engaging.  

You may be wondering what this has to do with social-emotional learning. 

When your students are engaged with the content they are learning, they are happier and more willing to work hard in your class.  


It’s not just about being happy.  It’s about finding satisfaction in learning, finding joy in working with others, finding a purpose for being at school.  In fact, studies have shown that students who engage in the Arts and in Arts integration at school are less likely to have attendance issues.


Why SEAL?  Because the Arts are engaging for the brain and for the senses. Engaging and interacting in the Arts truly does teach to the whole child.


Keep in mind, this is not just true for lower grades. 

Similarly, middle school and high school students also need to be engaged in their learning to help them find purpose in their day.  In fact, they may need it even more as they are naturally not as likely to want to simply please their teachers.  Older students question why they are learning your content.  For this reason, help them to find those points of engagement. 


Don’t be afraid to test things out and be creative with your lessons.


Bonus Tip: LISTEN


The bonus tip I want to share with you is simply to take the time to listen to your students.  

Above all, our students (actually all humans) want to feel valued and heard.  It is one of the basic ways we can show students we care and it is one of the most simple ways to boost their social and emotional learning.


Successful Uses of ‘Time-Outs’


Earlier, I made a huge reference to time outs and in-school suspensions.  Using these as punishments is not the answer, but considering it as a natural consequence is different.  

Here’s what I mean.  Having a place where students can go to slow and calm down can be good if it is followed up quickly with some support.  

I’ve seen in-school suspension rooms work when the students are placed with caring adults who actively work to help the student process through what happened. 

I’ve seen teachers take time to go into the room and chat with the student about what happened in their classroom and really listen to what the student had to say.  Heck, I’ve been one of those teachers and felt the benefits from having a meaningful conversation with a student before they came back to my classroom!

I remember one 7th grade boy who saw me walk into the room he was assigned to roll his eyes and get super annoyed.  However, when I gave him some undivided attention and listened to his side, his whole demeanor changed.  He even smiled a little.  It made me feel good to put that time in and it was good for him, too.

What we do in our classrooms matters.  What we do, how we act, and how we teach makes a huge impact on our students’ social-emotional learning.   




Here are those 5 tips one more time:

  1. Pause a lesson if something is happening and discuss
  2. Be proactive and explicitly teach social-emotional skills
  3. Integrate SEL with whatever content you are teaching
  4. Role model body language, facial expressions and kind words 
  5. Use engaging and creative lessons

BONUS – Take the time to listen to your students!




If you are interested in learning more about reaching your students through SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning.  Go ahead and register for my free workshop: The 3 Secrets to Integrating the ARTS with SEL.  This one hour workshop is packed with ideas and strategies that will help you to start teaching SEAL in no time.

I can’t wait to see you in side the workshop!









Free SEAL WorkshopYou know the arts are a great way to address students’ social-emotional needs, but HOW?  Let me show you in this FREE workshop on The 3 Secrets to Integrating the Arts with SEL – even Online!

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