The Importance of Being Deliberate

Educators everywhere understand that building positive relationships with students is an important and valuable component of learning. I, too, know how important it is to reach a student and build relationships, which is why Reach, Teach, Inspire and Empower is a motto I’ve tried to live by as an educator. When educators are able to reach students, it is then that they unlock the learner and each student’s potential.  

This summer I attend the NNSTOY annual conference in Orlando, Florida, where I was able to gain valuable tools and resources that will provide new ways to continue to reach students. The conference focused on best practices in teaching and learning, cultivating equitable schools, the future of education, and social emotional learning for teachers and students. 

While at the conference, I learned about the Collaborative for Academic Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as a trusted resource for information about social emotional learning. CASEL defines social emotional learning (SEL) as the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. CASEL also breaks SEL into five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  

 I attended various sessions about how teachers utilize strategies and resources to make connections with students, build students’ self awareness, and cultivate caring environments in their classrooms and schools. I learned about how a teacher incorporates music into lessons to make connections with students and create an environment of acceptance. Another teacher uses mindfulness techniques to help her third graders focus throughout the day. I listened to several other teachers discuss how they rely on art and their school’s character trait program to build students’ understanding of identity and self awareness. 

Before attending the conference I knew that social emotional learning can be part of all classrooms and content areas. What I realized at the conference was that social emotional learning doesn’t just happen; teachers must be DELIBERATE about teaching it. When we help students better understand themselves as individuals and as part of a larger community, we set them up to successfully learn content and thrive in school and beyond.  In the motto, Reach, Teach, Inspire and Empower, “Reach” is listed first before “Teach.”  Before we teach content, we must be deliberate and reach students. I used to think that reaching students was the important work of getting to know students and building a relationship. I’ve expanded my knowledge about what it means to reach students – it is also the deliberate teaching of social emotional skills. 

What are you doing today to be deliberate about teaching social emotional skills?


Melissa Romano, 2018 Montana Teacher of the Year, Teacher and Instructional Coach, Candidate for State Superintendent of Schools