New Jersey Department of Education

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

As students continue to experience the impact of COVID-19, different types of traumatic experiences and high levels of stress for many of our students, educators, and families continue to surface. As we work to support students, SEL and attending to student and educator well-being has become even more critical. Integrating SEL into summer programming is essential to re-engage students, support the building of relationships, and foster the development of skills needed for success in schools and communities.

Building Developmental Relationships Between Staff and Students


Sample Actions (Explanations)

Express Care

·  Be dependable (Be someone I can trust.)

·  Listen (Really pay attention when we are together.)

·  Believe in me (Make me feel known and valued)

·  Be warm (Show me you enjoy being with me)

·  Encourage (Praise me for my efforts and achievements)

Challenge Growth

·  Expect my best (Expect me to live up to my potential)

·  Hold me accountable (Insist I take responsibility for my actions)

·  Help me reflect on failures (Help me learn from my mistakes)

·  Stretch me (Push me to go further)

Provide Support

·  Navigate (Guide me through hard situations)

·  Empower me (Build my confidence to take charge of my life)

·  Advocate (Defend me when I need it)

·  Set boundaries (Establish limits to keep me on track)

Share Power

·  Respect me (Take me seriously and treat me fairly)

·  Include me (Involve me in decisions that affect me)

·  Collaborate (Work with me to solve problems and reach goals)

·  Let me lead (Create opportunities for me to take action)

Expand Possibilities

·  Inspire (Inspire me to see possibilities for my future)

·  Broaden horizons (Expose me to new experiences, ideas, and places)

·  Connect (Introduce me to more people who can help me)


Taking into consideration the range of experiences of the past two years, it is especially important to utilize summer programming as an opportunity to build strong relationships between students as well as relationships between students and adults. These connections help support students who may be feeling anxiety or stress about attending the summer program, and foster connectedness and student engagement. Schools may find it helpful to dedicate time at the beginning of the summer program to provide students and educators with increased opportunities for shared experiences to foster positive relationships. Research has demonstrated that supportive and sustained relationships with adults in schools support students’ capacity for resiliency. As schools design summer programs, it will be critical to focus on:

  • Dedicating time to re-socialization and to developing social emotional skills and growth mindsets that are reinforced and practiced across instruction;
  • Identifying students who have had traumatic experiences or who may be suffering from anxiety and depression, and helping them access local and culturally relevant supports; and
  • Building a culture in which relationships are prioritized and all students and adults feel safe and supported and experience a sense of belonging and agency (See Building Developmental Relationships Chart above).

While designing summer programming, it is important to provide summer staff with professional development to enhance their understanding of SEL. When adults have enhanced social-emotional skills, they are better equipped to support the social-emotional growth of students. The NJDOE’s six SEL Modules for Educators are designed as turnkey toolkits that can be utilized in a group training session, within professional learning communities, or individually. Each module includes a PowerPoint slide deck, a facilitation guide, and corresponding hand-outs that encourage further exploration and self-reflection. Module one provides users with an introduction to SEL and general strategies to support student development. Modules two through six provide users with a more in-depth understanding of each of the SEL core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. As provision of these supports become a part of your summer learning program, consider the following guiding questions:

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