Social Emotional Learning: Self-Management

Social-Emotional Learning may just seem like the latest educational buzz phrase, but it's an essential component of any curriculum. Teachers tasked with incorporating more SEL into their day often feel frustrated by the lack of time and support. This is the second in a comprehensive blog series with practical ideas on how to easily build your students' skills without finding an extra hour in your school day.

Author, educator, and whole-life coach Nicole D. Collier kicks things off this week by teaching us more about Self-Awarness, what this means to our students, and how we can nurture this skill.


Self-management is the practice of managing our emotions, thoughts and behaviors. When we have strong self-management skills, we have the ability to regulate ourselves. We understand that different circumstances require us to think and behave in varied ways in order to achieve success. Self-management goes beyond awareness of thoughts and emotions, and moves into taking intentional steps to master our internal state and our choices.

So What

As students strive to make their goals into reality, they will likely encounter obstacles. Whether it’s striving to be kind throughout the day, completing a science project, or mastering important skills in their chosen sport, students can expect barriers on their way to the finish line. This is where self-management comes into play. Those who are adept at self-management demonstrate resilience in the face of difficulties.

Working toward goals is a lot like crossing a body of water. You begin with a destination in mind, and plan out your route, but you must also be prepared for changing circumstances. Students who learn to self-manage become more confident captains. They become keen observers, understanding the waters where they are, and making needed adjustments as they travel. When surprise showers roll in, they can weather the storm, recalibrate as needed, and resume the journey.

Students who exhibit strong self-management skills are able to adapt to a variety of situations, and overcome hardships as they arise. As a result, they can persevere and make progress toward their dreams.

Now What

Self-Management Topics and Themes

  • Resilience & Change
  • Goals & Motivation
  • Mind-Body Connection
  • Confidence
  • Time Management
  • Anger Management

Personal Power Playlist

Generate a “playlist” of phrases students can use to help manage their thoughts and emotions. As a group, jot down a wide range of contexts such as becoming angry, facing disappointment, making good progress, accomplishing a task, procrastinating, etc. Then work with students to write corresponding kudos, reminders, and positive statements to help build healthy mental and emotional habits. For a bonus, the phrases can rhyme. For instance, when tempers flare, students can remember to “Take a pause for the cause.” This is a reminder to pause and take a deep breath to get their emotions under control.  

Stars For Steps

Create personal star charts to help students monitor their progress toward a big goal. With teacher support, students will select a single, realistic goal and write it at the top of an index card. Using the space underneath, list small, manageable steps toward the goal, one per line. Each time the student makes progress toward their goal, they will give themselves a star.

Variation: Each time a star is earned, students will write a short “journal entry” to acknowledge any challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, and/or to honor the work of taking another step.

Variation: Instead of a star chart, design a voyage map, with students planning and marking their individual progress across a body of water. This option may work well for students who enjoy coloring or drawing.

Quick Start Questions (Choose one):

  • What's one goal you want to accomplish this week? What steps do you need to take in order to be successful?
  • Have you ever felt like giving up on something? What would a wise person tell you to do at that moment?
  • When you're in a hurry, how do you decide what to do first?
  • What's something you can tell yourself to celebrate when you've taken a step toward your goal?

Books to Nurture Self-Managment

Early Readers

Maggie Smith, bestselling author of the viral poem “Good Bones” and the memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, delivers a lyrical and reassuring picture book perfect for calming active minds at bedtime (or anytime).

A tender (and humorous!) look at the way tough emotions can make us feel stuck and how the presence of a good friend and a deep belly laugh can make it easier to get through stormy feelings. Complete with back matter to help stuck readers feel better through noticing, smelling, talking, and taking a deep breath.

Digger and the other big trucks work all day, smashing and building and transforming their jobsite.

But when a caterpillar weaves its cocoon onto Digger’s bucket, he is forced to stop and be still.

In the stillness, Digger begins to notice the world beyond his worksite. And when the butterfly finally emerges, it’s clear that Digger and his friends have also been changed forever.

Middle Grade

The house seemed to sit apart from the others on Katydid Street, silent and alone, like it didn’t fit among them. For Violet Hart—whose family is about to move into the house on Katydid Street—very little felt like it fit anymore. Like their old home, suddenly too small since her mother remarried and the new baby arrived. Or Violet’s group of friends, which, since they started middle school, isn’t enough for Violet’s best friend, Paige. Everything seemed to be changing at once. But sometimes, Violet tells herself, change is okay.

That is, until Violet sees her new room.

The next semiautobiographical graphic novel from Jarad Greene continues to follow Jay, this time as he faces his freshman year of high school—and a whole new world of friendships, self-discovery, and stress about the future.

Eighth grader Jayson Linden has had a stutter his whole life. Though his fellow classmates can sometimes be mean, Jayson tries not to let it get to him. Then Jayson’s best friend, Gloria, is kicked off the debate team because of her stutter and Jayson starts to notice other injustices happening at their school.

In order to make their middle school a more inclusive place and to stand up for his friends, Jayson decides to run against Mack, the most popular boy at school and captain of the basketball team, for student-body president. But as the campaign heats up, will Jayson be able to face his fears of public speaking and win the election?


Audrey St. Vrain has grown up in the shadow of someone who doesn’t actually exist. Before she was born, her mother, Camilla St. Vrain, wrote the bestselling book Letters to My Someday Daughter, a guide to self-love that advises treating yourself like you would your own hypothetical future daughter. The book made Audrey’s mother a household name, and she built an empire around it.

Audrey knows a different side of being the someday daughter. Shipped off to boarding school when she was eleven, she feels more like a promotional tool than a member of Camilla’s family. Audrey is determined to create her own identity aside from being Camilla’s daughter. When Camilla asks Audrey to go on tour with her to promote the book’s anniversary, Audrey can’t help but think that this is the last, best chance to figure out how they fit into each other’s lives.

About the Author

Nicole D. Collier is a former elementary teacher turned whole-life coach and author who writes about learning to be true to yourself. She is the author of Just Right Jillian and The Many Fortunes of Maya.