The field of social-emotional learning (SEL) is rapidly evolving. Many district leaders report that SEL is a core priority in 2020—72 percent of them say that their districts are pursuing social-emotional learning as a key strategic goal.
At the same time, CASEL writes that more and more public school districts are reorganizing central offices to create an integrated approach to SEL from pre-school through high school.
These trends show that not only is SEL a top strategic initiative, but it's also an emerging profession. Districts are recognizing the importance of building human systems that protect time for SEL and make it a priority. This could mean anything from creating a full-time central office position for SEL, to building out a new division or office of social-emotional learning.
If you're thinking about making your first (or next) SEL hire, there are several decisions to make across compensation, reporting structure, and timing. But first, you need to gain clarity on the job(s) you are hiring for, the responsibilities of the role, and the skillsets you are looking for in candidates. That's why we put together this overview of social-emotional learning jobs.
Your district will have different hiring needs depending on where you are in your SEL journey, but this article can offer insight into the SEL job titles, roles, and responsibilities that are most common in districts today.
The social-emotional learning jobs to consider hiring for this year:
1. Director of Social-Emotional Learning
This person is typically the head of a district's social-emotional learning initiatives. The director of SEL (sometimes also known as the "executive director of SEL," "assistant superintendent of SEL," or "director of social-emotional and mental health services") provides leadership and direction toward ensuring that all students develop the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and life. They lead the development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive approach to SEL while ensuring that all programs align with district priorities.
Increasingly, directors of SEL are expected to partner with academic directors and other leadership team members to build an integrated approach to SEL and academics—so that SEL isn't a one-off initiative, but deeply embedded in the classroom and after-school programs.
The responsibilities of a director of SEL will vary based on the size of a district and where they are in the SEL journey. In general, however, this person is responsible for:
- Overseeing all SEL practices and interventions to support students.
- Supervising ongoing adult SEL and professional learning experiences for school and district staff.
- Assessing SEL curriculum and programs, and measuring effectiveness with SEL assessment tools like Panorama.
- Maintaining an operational budget and determining allocation of resources.
- Forging partnerships with community stakeholders.
2. SEL Specialist or SEL Coordinator
Reporting to the director of social-emotional learning, the SEL specialist or coordinator generally supports the effective implementation of a district’s SEL vision. This person helps to create, adapt, and execute SEL initiatives within schools, and provides technical assistance and best practices to district and school staff around promoting students’ social-emotional development and well-being.
Strong interpersonal skills are essential to this role. It's common for SEL specialists to work collaboratively with stakeholders—including administrators, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, and community partners—to coordinate and allocate resources that meet the needs of students and build a positive school climate.
Data collection and analysis is also an important skillset to look out for. An SEL specialist should be proficient with using data to make decisions about which initiatives to pursue, which SEL skills to focus on with students, and whether or not a particular curriculum, program, or intervention is working.
3. SEL Interventionist
An SEL interventionist can connect the dots between SEL and MTSS. This person helps to develop and implement SEL supports at the universal, Tier 1 level. They also provide—or assist teachers in providing—Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions for students who require more intensive SEL supports.
At some districts, SEL interventionists also play a role in monitoring data on student progress, contributing to staff professional development on SEL, and liaising with schools, families, and community organizations.
In Johnston County Public Schools (NC), hiring two SEL interventionists was an important step to scale and increase the impact of the district's SEL work. You can download the exact job posting used by JCPS in this SEL job descriptions packet.
4. SEL Coach
SEL coaches play a central role in helping schools implement an approach to SEL aligned to the district's SEL strategic plan. These coaches often provide direct professional development to school leaders, teachers, and staff on how to administer a specific social-emotional learning curriculum or how to apply SEL best practices with students. They work to ensure that SEL is integrated into classroom instruction and educators' daily practices.
The responsibilities often include, but are not limited to:
- Designing and leading professional learning opportunities for educators.
- Working with school leadership teams to build SEL into school schedules and daily activities.
- Delivering individualized coaching teachers.
- Modeling and coaching the delivery of SEL lessons in the classroom using various models, such as 1:1 coaching, peer coaching, and co-teaching.
5. SEL Teacher
The SEL teacher is a student-facing, classroom management role. These teachers primarily support students with identified social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs, as well as students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or students from diverse backgrounds.
The core function of an SEL teacher is to explicitly teach academic and social-emotional learning lessons to students using evidence-based strategies such as restorative practices or social-emotional learning circles. Mostly working in small group settings, SEL teachers help students learn, practice, and demonstrate social-emotional skills. As needed, SEL teachers also meet with special education and general education teachers, administrators, parents, social workers, or social services representatives to discuss students’ individual needs and to develop intervention plans.