Committee for Children Blog

Putting the Tennessee Social and Personal Competencies and School Counseling Standards into Action

teacher reading to students -

Hello, Tennessee school counselors and leaders! Are you looking for ways to easily incorporate the Tennessee Social and Personal Competencies into the work you’re already doing? Are you wondering how you can support these new competencies while also ensuring that students develop the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need for college and career readiness and academic and social success—which are all at the core of the School Counseling Model and Standards Policy?

You need not spend a lot of time creating anything new or different to integrate the Tennessee Social and Personal Competencies into what you’re already doing, and it doesn’t have to be another add-on: the Second Step Program contains everything you need to integrate the Social and Personal Competencies into daily practices, plus the research base to meet the standards within the School Counseling Model and Standards Policy for students in Early Learning through Grade 8.

The Second Step Program has lessons, discussion starters, and classroom-based activities that support the 10 social and instructional teaching practices that foster supportive and productive school experiences and enhance ideal student behaviors, which educators can expect from the successful implementation of these practices. Check out these examples of how the Second Step Program can support student behaviors and teacher practices within the Tennessee Social and Personal Competencies Toolkit.

Note: Tennessee teacher practices and student behaviors are italicized below.


Teacher Practices

Teacher Language, Balanced Instruction, Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection, Competence Building, and Warmth and Support are five of the Tennessee teaching practices supported by the Second Step Program. The curriculum incorporates language that encourages students when they demonstrate positive social skills and teaches them how to monitor and regulate their own behaviors (Teacher Language). Students have regular opportunities to directly learn and to engage in the materials and interact with content in multiple ways, such as through songs and videos, discussions, skill practice, activities, and writing (Balanced Instruction). Second Step lessons are designed to promote student self-reflection and encourage setting, monitoring, and accomplishing goals (Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection). The program also demonstrates concepts through modeling and demonstration and provides structured moments for specific feedback. Students are regularly guided through problem-solving and conflict-resolution strategies (Competence Building) that they learn in various social skill lessons. Last but not least, Second Step activities are made relevant for students’ lives (Warmth and Support) through program components like the “Real Voices” videos included in the new Second Step Middle School Program—middle school students themselves report that the curriculum helps them in real life. The Second Step lessons for all grades are designed so the above practices are part of the teaching process, with little extra planning or preparation time needed.

Student Behaviors in the Classroom

Student-Centered Discipline

The Second Step Program gives students tools for managing themselves and regulating their own behavior by teaching and providing opportunities for modeling and practicing strategies for calming down, handling frustrating situations, and managing anxiety. The curriculum helps students problem solve difficult situations such as overcoming roadblocks, helping friends resolve conflicts, and making amends. Students learn strategies for understanding and identifying triggers for their own and others’ behaviors and emotions, managing strong emotions like anger and frustration, and analyzing how emotions affect decision making. The Student-Centered Discipline teaching practice suggests that adults should not attempt to over-manage their students. Developing these student capacities reduces the need for teacher management and the likelihood of discipline problems as students learn ways to manage their own behaviors.

Responsibility and Choice

Students develop strategies and skills for making responsible decisions about their work in the classroom by participating in Second Step lessons on analyzing decisions, acknowledging and handling mistakes, and taking responsibility for their actions. Lessons on solving playground problems, classroom problems, peer exclusion, and other conflicts increase awareness that there are multiple ways to solve problems. The program includes many lessons about helping peers and intentional times built into the curriculum for monitoring self-thinking.

Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection

This teaching practice involves students understanding their goals and monitoring progress toward their goals. The Second Step Middle School lessons especially emphasize this skill set, with a focus on growth mindset, planning ahead, and setting and achieving goals.

Warmth and Support

Students learn how to take into account the perspectives and emotions of their classmates and teachers by looking for situational cues, understanding how different people can feel differently about the same thing, and predicting others’ feelings in different situations. Through Second Step lessons on showing compassion and respect and accepting differences, they also learn to demonstrate positive interactions with peers and support them.

Cooperative Learning

Second Step lessons on being respectful, having successful conversations, and joining in a group give opportunities to demonstrate positive social skills while interacting in group work and successfully accomplish group tasks. Students learn to apply interpersonal and social skills to promote one another’s successes with lessons on giving compliments, showing gratitude, and helping friends.

Classroom Discussions

The Classroom Discussions teaching practice involves students having effective classroom discussions through the use of student communication skills. The Second Step Program builds many of the skills needed for effective communication, such as focusing attention, avoiding assumptions, handling put-downs, asking for what you need, saying the problem, speaking assertively, and responding with compassion. The lessons also have strategies for listening attentively and analyzing and respecting others’ points of view.

Academic Press and Expectations

Students can analyze and evaluate information to solve problems by learning non-blaming language, analyzing solutions, and trying out steps for problem solving in the Second Step Program. The curriculum also gives them the tools to identify and regulate emotions in response to challenging demands by teaching them about emotion triggers, personal emotion signals, and strategies for interrupting scaling emotions.

To learn more about how the Second Step Program supports the teacher practices and student behaviors identified within the Tennessee Social and Personal Competencies Toolkit, contact Yvette Braddock, territory manager at Committee for Children, at