Educating for Well-being: The Need for Systemic Socio-Emotional Learning and Motion Leadership

Special Focus : Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined: Thoughts and Responses from Education’s Frontline During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Learning Ecosystems and Leadership July 06, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has made evident the need for systemic social and emotional education, for children, teens, and adults. Mental and emotional problems like distraction, depression and suicide, loneliness, and a lack of purpose that were already affecting people’s minds and health, are increasing. We lack strategies to deal with them personally, in education, and as a society. We need to learn how to be more human; better able to live within ourselves, with others, and the planet.

Well-being can be cultivated: it should be a core goal of education so we can help people develop resilience and live satisfying lives even in adversity. We need tools to better manage the ways we relate to challenges; learn from the crises, and still thrive. Social and emotional competencies (SEC) help the development of well-being and should be integrated systemically into education through social and emotional learning (SEL): 

  • Articulated and on-going age-appropriate content, from early childhood to higher education.
  • Extensive teacher training in SEL curriculum and SEC development.
  • Training and involvement of principals and other educational leaders.
  • Parent involvement: Since SEL develops strongly through modeling, parents should also be supported and integrated in the development of self and children’s SEC.


One main role of educational leadership in these times is to maintain a sense of belonging and coherence for educational communities. A starting point—based on best leadership practices—could be engaging fully in what Fullan and others calls motion leadership: where the leader understands his or herself as a learner and promotes that teachers form a community of learners by facilitating generative relationships of trust, collaboration, and creativity that allow meaningful conversations—those that address what matters most to the whole educational community. Leaders can find a sense of agency, purpose, and belonging as enablers for their communities, allowing time and space to jointly address the current social and emotional situation of students and teachers and, from there, co-create a shared vision about the main point of schooling within the actual context and for the future.

  • Continuous educator peer learning that addresses not just the necessary technical and administrative work but most centrally, the pedagogical and socio-emotional issues impacting the core of education: students’ learning.
  • Space to hear and integrate students’ voices and promote parent participation, understanding education is everyone’s responsibility.


Leaders can help their communities co-create a clear vision of what success means for their students, based on high standards, and allow for all the educators, students, and parents to commit to that vision. 

Since AtentaMente’s core mission is to share well-being tools, we have offered our programs online, for free. As the pandemic evolves, we share these tools through the following programs.

  • Educating for Well-being: An educator SEL training program and classroom curriculum, emphasizing adult development of SEC, now fully online (systemic, scalable, evidence based and sustainable)
  • Stresstoolbox for adults in general and for Health Providers in particular.


Our programs are based on current scientific knowledge, stressing the importance of developing four core capacities that are pillars of wellbeing the ABCDs: Attention, Benevolence (bondad), Clarity, and Direction.