Academic measures are often the primary reference when schools are evaluated, so it’s fair to ask why we spend instructional time on social and emotional learning. Academic achievement occurs when students are engaged in learning, when they feel safe, when relationships with teachers and peers are positive, and when they have some ability to regulate attention and emotions. Students who can label what others are feeling, as well as what they themselves are feeling, are students who possess the skills needed to build and to maintain satisfactory relationships with peers and teachers. There is compelling evidence that our ability to efficiently and explicitly teach social and emotional competencies will impact a child’s academic achievement. Please visit the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) website for relevant research.
The Committee for Children (CFC) is a local non-profit agency that creates research-based social and emotional learning materials. On their website they note “as a nonprofit, our mission is to foster the social and emotional development, safety, and well-being of children through education and advocacy—and our work extends all over the world”. Their work is in 70 countries! Their main office happens to be located in Seattle. At JSIS, we have CFC’s Second Step program, including the recently published Bullying Prevention. Second Step provides instruction at all grade levels in skills for learning, empathy, emotional regulation and problem solving. Generally, these lessons are taught by their classroom teacher.
In addition, our third graders participate in the Roots of Empathy program. Students in the program are guided in observing the relationship between a parent and a baby that visit the classroom monthly. Students pay attention to the baby’s signals of emotions and intentions, prompting them to become more aware of their own emotional life and the thoughts and feelings of others. For more information visit the ROE website, where you can watch In School, Babies Teach Older Children Empathy from the PBS NewsHour.
In our social and emotional learning efforts at JSIS, students acquire a school-wide language for social problem solving. Children learn to recognize anger triggers and physical signs that they are angry. They learn to prevent escalation of angry feelings into “action” by using strategies to restore a sense of calm, including taking slow deep breaths (e.g. “smell the soup…cool the soup”), and using self-talk (e.g.,"I will calm down"). Students practice applying skills when they recognize that they feel angry, sad or scared and they learn a protocol to "Recognize, Refuse, and Report" bullying.
Dan Turner is the school counselor for JSIS and his schedule is 11:30-4:30 daily.