“Every bit of SEL”—or Social Emotional Learning, writes Jeffrey Benson—“you can integrate into your planning will not only begin to heal the wounds of passivity, racism, and inequity, but also give students an experience today, in your classroom, of that better world.” (157) The book, Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL (ASCD, 2021), speaks to big ideas of the teacher’s role in expanding (and “saving”) democracy, while suggesting concrete tools that teacher can use tomorrow morning when the bell rings. Since “emotions and intellect operate in partnership” (7), we know our students must be engaged in order to enjoy meaningful learning. Benson proposes activities and techniques to draw students in, to help them become full participants and co-owners of their learning. He offers ways for us to get our students to share and give feedback that immediately improve their learning experience, while reducing the amount of work a teacher needs to do. For such a short and readable book, Improve Every Lesson with SEL, is a hefty and indispensable toolbox of good ideas.
Jeffrey Benson has been a teacher for over 40 years, also a school director, mentor, author, and leader in education, working in school reform, teacher training, curricular development, and conflict resolution. His books include Hanging In: Strategies for Working with the Students Who Challenge Us Most, ... 10 Steps for Managing Change in Schools, ... and Teaching the Whole Teen: Everyday Practices That Promote Success and Resilience in School and Life. He is also the author of many articles and is a member of the faculty at the ASCD, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
To learn more about Jeffrey Benson’s work or to contact him, go to https://jeffreybenson.org/.
Krzysztof (Chris) Odyniec is a teacher and historian who has worked in secondary and post-secondary education for fifteen years. He currently teaches social studies at John Swett High School in Crockett, California: https://www.jsusd.org/Domain/167.
Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Europe, the Spanish Empire, and the Atlantic World, specializing in sixteenth-century diplomacy and travel.