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Adults Need SEL, Too (w. Tre Gammage)

I’m thrilled to be sharing a conversation I had with my new friend, Tre Gammage. Tre and I met recently as speakers at the Teach Better Conference in Ohio. We’ve both been connected to the Teach Better organization for quite a while as guest bloggers, but only had the chance to get to know one another at this year’s conference.

Tre is an SEL Educator who has spent time as a dean of students, a professional speaker, and an SEL Consultant. He's inspired to help people do what they love through his podcast - ‘The Dash’ - and his business - SEL Educators.

I had the opportunity to hear about the work Tre does with Social Emotional Learning for adults during a bloggers’ networking event, and as he spoke about the SEL expectations we have for students in schools and how we should have those same expectations and resources for educators, I immediately knew I had to invite him onto the show. After all, it’s primarily adults who are expected to facilitate the social-emotional development of children, and how can we expect to inspire students towards higher SEL quotients when the leaders themselves haven’t been equipped with the skills to do so in their own lives and relationships?

I’m so excited to share this interview with you all and I’m almost certain you’ll leave this conversation with an expanded view of SEL and how you can move to new levels in your own personal growth as well.

In his interview, Tre shares…

When we boil it down, SEL - in its most basic form - is essentially emotional intelligence. According to CASEL (Collaborative Academic for SEL), there are five areas of competency that are included in SEL practice:

  • Self Awareness

  • Self Management

  • Social Awareness

  • Relationship Skills

  • Responsible Decision Making

These competencies encompass all of the “soft skills” (you know, the ones that we work to instill in our students) that are needed to form relationships, communicate, and manage oneself to support creating a successful life. These include the skills and self-awareness to help us deal with conflict, create self-discipline, have self-control, manage our relationships, accurately interpret conversations, and open our minds to situational perspectives, and are responsible for up to 80% of our successes at both work and at home.

There’s no doubt that SEL is important - as an educator we know that instilling it in our students will lead to their future success. That’s why we talk about strategies for improving self-discipline and getting work done, having mini-lessons on how to deal with conflict and how to create healthy relationships, and providing the space for them to learn how to support themselves as an emotional being. These are all very true and important elements of SEL, but in this view, we are missing a vital piece of the SEL puzzle - the teacher.

When it comes to SEL and emotional intelligence, there is the widely accepted belief that, once someone becomes an “adult” you have it all mastered and the skills in SEL lessons no longer apply. They fail to recognize the overlap. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Tre points out that those “soft skills” that we work to instill in our students are the same skills we need to succeed in what we do.

To take this a little deeper, here’s a little food for thought - we teach who we are. Now, while this might be getting a little deep, there is a lot of truth in this statement, because we need to recognize the fact that you don’t have to speak in order to teach who you are. Your actions are just as loud as the words you say. You are communicating with those around you 100% of the time - even when you aren’t aware of it. Here’s an interesting statistic for you - 80% of the communication that we do is nonverbal, so we need to have enough self-awareness to understand how and what we are communicating with the world affects those around us. We need to have enough self-awareness to understand the ripple effect and impact that what we are communicating has - thus becoming the model that we want to be for our students while also being able to take care of ourselves. You see, SEL is like a cycle - an impact loop. When you gain the self-awareness to understand yourself, you are opening yourself up to having the capacity to show empathy towards others, strengthening your relationships.

Alright, I see it’s essential. So what are my next steps?

First off, Tre tells us to start by “finding your champions”. Find those like-minded people and create a community in order to make the necessary changes at a systems level. Go to CASEL’s website for more information on Systemic Implementation.

Also, Tre suggests to us that, before SEL systems are rolled out to students, that districts spend a year working on the adults who will be facilitating and working with students. A strong SEL curriculum and program doesn’t start with having lessons and materials, it starts with having emotionally and mentally strong teachers who not only know the fundamentals but live them as well.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Find Tre

Tre’s Bio

Tre' Gammage is an SEL Educator that's spent time as a dean of students, professional speaker, and SEL Consultant. He's inspired to help people do what they love, and he does this through his Podcast - The Dash - and his business - SEL Educators.


If you are enjoying the podcast, please do me a HUGE favor and rate, share, and subscribe to this podcast. My hope is that the experiences and gems shared on this show will inspire teachers to become better versions of themselves as they redefine what it means to teach well and prioritize themselves.

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