Social emotional learning is a process for learning life skills, including how to deal with oneself, others, and relationships...recognizing emotions...managing feelings...developing sympathy and empathy for others, and maintaining positive relationships.
We are fortunate to have a strong team of counsellors leading our SEL programme. They work in partnership with our core teachers to both deliver a "formal" SEL curriculum in dedicated periods three times per week, as well as to support the "informal" SEL skills and values which are embedded into day to day life inside and outside of the classroom.
Many of our students arrive at the school with considerable emotional baggage having been accumulated through a series of personal and academic challenges in their previous learning environments. Our first priority is to help them to unload some of those feelings of negative self-worth and anxiety and to focus on positive attitudes about themselves and those around them. Soon they find that their ability to empathize, follow through, exercise self-control, and communicate clearly helps them to make thoughtful decisions, solve problems, work collaboratively with others and, ultimately enables them to build more friendships and experience greater social and academic successes.
In addition, our SEL programme strives to help students to improve their nonverbal communication skills and develop more "socially competent" behaviours. Through work with our SLP and, for some children, with our facilitated play groups they begin to realize that the majority of emotional meaning is conveyed not by spoken words but rather through "paralanguage, facial expressions, gestures and postures, interpersonal distance, and touch, rhythm and time". At the same time all of our staff are acutely sensitive to potential misunderstandings and meltdowns and are ready to quickly intervene to help support students who are experiencing some social difficulties or are missing key social cues.
Finally, it is critically important to remember that SEL isn't something that can be accomplished in a one shot intervention either individually or school-wide. A one-week "anti-bullying" campaign or a personal counselling session can only be effective if they are part of an on-going, strategic approach to social emotional learning and student growth. This June our SEL team spent days working on their curriculum map for next year to not only ensure that there was a comprehensive and systematic approach to social and emotional skill development throughout the school year, but also that it was seamlessly integrated into the broader learning environment.
Let's face it. Whether it is at work or in the classroom, everyone needs the skills to communicate effectively, to work in teams and to be able to let go of the the personal and family issues that can get in the way of working and learning productively. This emotional intelligence is the key to not only academic success, but to a healthy and happy life.