Increasing SELf Awareness

Jefferson administration introduces SEL to Jefferson to support students’ emotional well-being

The five core competencies of SEL are now taught during 8th period sessions. Photo courtesy of

James Ye, Staff Writer

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is defined as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”  While SEL blocks are a new addition to Jefferson, SEL in itself is not a new idea: SEL has been around for over two decades in schools nationwide. Now, SEL has reached FCPS and Jefferson as well, with biweekly 8th period sessions being dedicated to learning the five core competencies of SEL: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.

According to Mr. Brandon Kosatka, the administrator of SEL 8th period blocks, something like SEL has been attempted before at Jefferson called Teacher Advisory, in which students met with a teacher on a weekly basis to learn about topics that overlap with SEL’s five core competencies. Kosatka understands that there are challenges of adapting SEL to serve the current needs of the Jefferson community. 

“Like many things these days, adapting instruction that we’ve become accustomed to providing in a face to face setting is a challenge to do in a virtual setting,” Kosatka said. “What might be an easy conversation between a teacher and the class in a classroom becomes a little more difficult when we’re doing so in an online or virtual platform like BBCU or Google Meet.”

While there are mixed responses from the students – many believing that SEL blocks are a waste of time – some students hope that SEL blocks can be improved in the future. Senior Andrew Zhang recognizes the importance of teaching SEL, but thinks it can be done better. 

“I think that it’s good to have these types of blocks. But I think teachers don’t talk about it enough, they don’t connect with the students,” Zhang said. “If teachers connected with the student and gave their own suggestions I think it would be a major improvement for SEL blocks.”

Some students share Zhang’s sentiments towards SEL, like senior Sahaj Vederey. He believes that SEL is important to both children and teenagers, but also believes it can be improved. 

“Well, teenagers also need this, but what they were teaching was a bit too simple in my opinion,” Vederey said. “If they were gonna teach this stuff, at least be a bit more deep.” 

When asked what goals he had for future SEL sessions, Zhang said he would be interested in learning more about self motivation, self awareness, and time management. 

“I think strategies and actually how to fix these problems and how to improve these parts is very important,” Zhang said.

When asked about goals for SEL at Jefferson, Kosatka provided insight on the current plan for the future. 

“One of the initial goals for SEL this year is to establish a working knowledge and common language for our community to begin talking about these important topics to help support all of our students both with their social emotional wellness and their academic success. For now, we’re using Homeroom as the conduit for the delivery and staff are being encouraged to incorporate some of the components of SEL in their daily instruction with students,” Kosatka said.”While we want to provide for the academic success of all of our students, we’re also looking to support student social emotional well-being and mental health as well.”