You might think that a school’s primary responsibility is to provide an academic and cognitive education and that was certainly the thinking when “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic” - the 3 R’s (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) was each school’s mantra beginning in the 18th Century. While it is critical and necessary for children to be knowledgeable, to learn basic skills and to grow academically and cognitively, it turns out that is not enough and in fact, other learning is necessary to achieve this cognitive growth. Today’s researchers and educators have demonstrated that a student’s social and emotional learning is foundational to their academic learning and has numerous critical benefits. It not only provides a foundation for other types of learning and success in school, it also provides for success in careers, mental health, and in life. Your child’s future then is influenced positively or negatively by their social and emotional skills.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is how children (and adults too) learn and apply skills, attitudes, behaviors and thoughts necessary in order to develop self-awareness and manage their emotions, to control and regulate themselves, to have social awareness and be able to empathize with others, to recognize social cues and be able to adapt to various situations, to develop the ability to have positive relationships, make friends, and work with others, to learn how to make positive, responsible choices and decisions about their own behaviors and to be able to weigh the consequences of their choices on themselves and on others. That work begins early in your child’s life and must continue throughout their school years. You might even know some adults who are still working on these social and emotional skills too!
These five Social/Emotional tenets - self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness, and relationship skills - are the most critical social and emotional learning competencies for effective learning to take place in a classroom and for an individual to reach his or her full potential. Schools that are intentional, consistent and provide systematic attention and educational methods to the social and emotional learning of their students from preschool through high school equip them with these social and emotional competences. In fact, over 20 years of research has proven that social and emotional learning results in:
- Higher academic achievement, including improved test scores and grades
- More positive social behaviors and less behavior/conduct problems
- Positive family relationships
- An increased ability to manage stress and depression and decreased emotional distress
- More positive attitudes about themselves, others, and school
- Lifelong, positive impact on your children’s education, the likelihood of high school graduation and their readiness for college
- Career success and positive work relationships
- Enhanced self-efficacy, confidence, persistence and sense of self
- Reduced criminal activity
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All of these are why we are so intentional to help your children learn these social and emotional skills. As a progressive school, we have a robust whole child focus and offer daily opportunities, attention, time, space and methods to help our students learn this foundation. For example, here we have:
- Developing Capable Young People and Positive Discipline principles, language and strategies are modeled and utilized by teachers and students to help ensure that these 5 tenets are incorporated and honored throughout the school day for each child and so each child is treated with dignity and respect.
- Soft Starts each morning, where children exercise their own curiosity, and their cooperation, communication, curiosity, and creativity are enhanced as they begin their day working with peers, creating art or projects, building, and socializing.
- Morning Meetings and Afternoon Reflection Gatherings to begin and end each day with awareness, reflection, peer discussions, community building, and reflections of each day’s learning.
- Classroom Meetings to problem-solve, collaborate, communicate and work together to address the needs and wants that impact the entire group and focus on finding solutions.
- Collaborate and Cooperative Learning to provide opportunities for students to work and learn together and to have an open exchange of ideas on project-based learning, group projects, cross-curricular learning and across age and grade levels.
- Community Building where each child is nurtured to be a part of a loving community that helps and cares for one another.
- Compassion and Social Justice Learning to help children participate in authentic opportunities to help and serve others, to value diversity and inclusivity, and to grow beyond themselves to learn to embrace and empathize with others.
- Outside Play where children play outside every day and build friendships and navigate through social interactions with their peers.
- Intrinsic Motivation so children learn to process and value what they think and feel about their own work and where children learn to take responsibility for their learning and behavior.
- Choices to give children a voice and to help children learn to make good choices and take responsibility for their choices.
Social and emotional competence is the foundation for all later development and is a predictor of later success. Schools and homes working together can assure our children’s futures are full of success, fulfillment, positive relationships, and a meaningful satisfying sense of self as they help children develop self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, social awareness and relationship skills.