SEL-aligned Classroom Management

Janna Nobleza
SEL, or social and emotional learning, focuses on who you are as an individual and the relationships you have with the people and world around you. Managing your classroom should also focus on these two elements by staying true to who you are as an individual teacher and creating and building healthy relationships with your students and the other people in your school building.

When we create safe, inclusive, welcoming classrooms for our students, we are better able to manage our learning environments successfully and effectively. 
In practice, classroom-management techniques may appear deceptively simple, but successfully and seamlessly integrating them into the instruction of students typically requires a variety of sophisticated techniques and a significant amount of skill and experience. While the specific techniques used to manage classrooms and facilitate learning can vary widely in terminology, purpose, and execution. (

In a SEL-focused class…
  1. Students understand what is expected of them at all times.
  2. Students see their teacher consistently adhere to the expectations and consistently apply consequences.
  3. Students know the class routines and patterns.
  4. Students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.
  5. Students know that even if there is a consequence for an action, they will never be hated, embarrassed or shamed.

The Problem with Punishment

Punishment is not an SEL strategy. Punishment uses coercion to get someone to do what you want, at least temporarily. Punishment is not relationship-building and many times makes our own teaching life harder.

Instead, punishment can breed resentment and lead to increased aggression. In many cases, it's better to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior rather than punishing misbehavior. Parents should model the behavior they wish to see in their child. (

SEL-aligned Classroom Management

Here are a few tips for how to manage behavior without punishing:
  • Your students work with you to create classroom expectations.
  • You explicitly post and teach your classroom expectations.
  • You communicate student successes to their families and wider school community.
  • You explicitly tell students what will happen if they are talking in class, turn in homework late, etc. so this is not a surprise to students if it happens to them.
  • You use gentle reminders or a discussion after class to correct behavior.
  • You respond to problem behaviors by keeping their perspective in mind and keeping your relationships with your students strong.
  • You are fair and consistent.

Want more tips? Our SEL Foundations Teacher Toolkit has a whole workshop focuses solely on SEL-aligned Classroom Management! Check it out!