Over the past few years, concern about the pandemic and a heightened anxiety about school safety have made it even more important than ever for schools to promote the mental health and well-being of their students. We asked local private schools to share how they’re supporting social-emotional learning (SEL), and here’s what they had to say.
We believe that social-emotional work is integral to a child’s development. It’s in everything we do at Mark Day School — how we make friends, resolve conflicts and step confidently into new experiences. Particularly in today’s society, it’s essential for children to explore who they are, learn to navigate social situations of all kinds, and move through challenges big and small. All of our faculty and staff are professionally trained in social and emotional learning, including The Toolbox Project and Responsive Classroom.
Our social emotional literacy (SEL) program, which is implemented throughout our K-8 curriculum and valued as part of the academic program, draws on a variety of resources to help children develop both as individuals and as members of the community. Across grades, there are many opportunities on a daily basis for students to build and practice these important skills. It’s in the buddy relationships between 8th graders and kindergartners, teamwork during daily P.E. and after-school sports, chicken and garden care, collaboration with peers on school projects, playtime at lunch, teacher-student meetings and more.
Every day we empower students to find their voice and develop agency in and outside the classroom. We prioritize both the emotional and academic well-being of each of our students, with the goal of providing a balanced and enduring learning experience. We have integrated research-based programs and approaches throughout our K-12 experience to create a foundation of social-emotional learning that builds on itself each year.
Our Student Support and Wellness Team collaborates closely with our faculty to support our students and parents/guardians. With student wellness of paramount importance, key members of our team meet each week to review coursework and student questions and concerns, and to collaborate on the best ways to support student learning and health.
Because mental health and well-being are imperative for student success, we highly encourage open dialogue between our students and counselors. Topics can range from friendship, inclusion, respect, differences, social isolation and social media to anything that is on our students’ minds! Our social mission statement, “San Domenico is a community of belonging where students, staff and families are dedicated to inclusion and respect for all,” speaks to the priority we place on maintaining a deeply connected and supportive environment for every member of our community.
At Town, we believe in the importance of incorporating emotional well-being into the process of learning. We have a lower school social-emotional learning teacher who works closely with classroom teachers to support students’ emotional and social well-being in grades K-4. In collaboration with our families and community, we believe it’s our responsibility to help students develop self-knowledge, empathy and respect for others, communication and problem-solving skills, and to accept responsibility for their own behavior. We build emotional intelligence and emotional literacy in a variety of ways, and we encourage strong connections between teachers and students.
Social-emotional competence is a critical part of every child’s school success, and just like any academic subject, children need to receive instruction in it. At Terra Marin, we keenly observe our students for their interests and strengths and seize opportunities to communicate and reflect those back to them, thereby building self-confidence and self-awareness. Through our SEL program, our students develop skills in responsible decision-making; self-regulation; and positive relationship building with peers, family, community and themselves.
SEL is woven throughout the fabric of Terra Marin, guiding our curriculum choices through its integration with language arts, math, Earth education and other core subjects. It serves as the foundation for all schoolwide practices and policies, including how adults and students relate with one another at all levels of the system. As a result, Terra Marin offers a welcoming, participatory and caring climate for learning for students and teachers alike.
Sterne School offers a relationship-based, supportive environment where students feel seen and heard and are encouraged to share their unique gifts with the world. Sterne School’s social emotional learning program is woven throughout our school’s curricula, programming and practices. Our program offers mentorship opportunities and experiential learning that centers around five SEL foundational tenets: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, building relationship skills and responsible decision making. We partner with families and community organizations to help foster our students’ voices, agency, self-reflection and self-advocacy.
We utilize a thematic framework for our SEL programming which includes:
- Setting goals and intentions
- Practicing gratitude through mindfulness
- Bringing joy to learning and life
- Celebrating each other’s uniqueness, practices and cultures
One of these themes is featured monthly, and students take part in field trips and engage in hands-on activities, service-learning opportunities, celebrations and academic work that revolves around these themes.
Social-emotional learning is an integral part of the Brandeis Marin program. At Brandeis Marin, we want our students to feel empowered to forge lasting connections, embrace challenges and take healthy risks. Brandeis teachers are well-versed in a wide variety of curricula to support social-emotional learning in the classroom, including Responsive Classroom, Toolbox and Kimochis. In addition, our school counselor meets regularly with each class to support community building and the investigation of big ideas like friendship, identity and restorative practices.
Mount Tamalpais School (MTS) believes that socially and emotionally aware students feel a greater sense of connection and belonging with peers, teachers and the larger school community. By implementing a social-emotional curriculum that fosters a shared vocabulary and guided daily experiences relating to peers, students develop a greater sense of connection and confidence. As their understanding and empathy for the human experience grows, so too does their ability to both navigate the social and emotional dynamics of life while getting much more out of their academic journey.
MTS faculty is trained in age-appropriate social-emotional learning programs, including ongoing professional development and daily collaboration with our school counselor. Kindergarten through 5th grade students start each day with a 30-minute block for morning meeting, including greetings and activities based on the Responsive Classroom model. Sixth through 8th grade students meet in advisory groups of 10 to 12 students three mornings a week. Homeroom and advisory groups will benefit from a year-long collaboration with the Institute for Social Emotional Learning and MTS faculty in the 2022–23 academic year. Throughout the day, SEL tools and class discussions are touchpoints to foster empathy, create bonds, and support a shared vocabulary to foster and grow community.
As a Catholic school, we’re grounded in a Christian anthropology that recognizes every person as a beloved child of God born with dignity and purpose. While we are sinners, we are also receivers of divine mercy and grace, which we aim to employ in every relationship. This notion of the person informs all we do, including the Catholic tradition of social-emotional support of all students.
For example, central to our instructional method is the seminar, which requires clear operating norms for discourse that respects the exploration of ideas. When successful, the result is bonded and respectful relationships among students and teachers that carry over to our retreat and sacraments programs, athletics and our liturgies which direct our focus away from ourselves and toward the divine.
As beloved children of God, our students are also called to serve people in need in the greater community. This call and obligation allows students to find direct application of their learning and provides a context for reflecting on their greater vocational call and obligation.
Communal learning, shared celebration and worship, and community service are all part of our great Catholic tradition, and all have monumental social and emotional benefits for our students.
Marin Primary & Middle School is an intentional, creative and joyous learning community. We’re proud to offer a learning journey that amplifies each child’s inherent strengths, helping them to build the intellectual skills, social awareness and emotional courage that will serve them throughout their lives. From preschool through 8th grade, our integrated SEL program serves as the foundation for this important work both in and out of the classroom.
Beginning in preschool, our program is guided by educational principles that support the cognitive and social-emotional growth of young children. Each day, teachers support students as they navigate their world, developing self-awareness, kindness and resilience. In the context of a strong academic program in primary school, students grow to understand themselves, to develop empathy and to make responsible decisions. As they move on to middle school, students participate in our advisory program, which supports their social-emotional and intellectual growth as they rise to each challenge and become leaders, independent thinkers, self-advocates and engaged citizens. Throughout the MP&MS learning journey, students learn and practice our core values of courage, curiosity and connection. As graduates, MP&MS students emerge with a passion for inquiry and empathy.
At Headlands, we understand that each individual brings something unique to our school community. We’re intentional about creating a warm, open and trusting environment that not only helps students achieve academic success but also helps students build social skills, form healthy relationships, and manage their individual emotions and needs.
Our personalized learning model allows teachers and administrators the ability to make a connection with each student on a daily basis and the one-to-one classroom setting enables our teachers to engage and empower students to learn at their own pace in an environment that promotes curiosity, inquiry, confidence and self-advocacy. Our school culture of respect and inclusion fosters mindfulness, reflection and positive self-image through celebration of self and personal responsibility.
While classes are tailored to the individual learner, Headlands Prep hosts a number of small group lunch clubs, including leadership and our Middle School Social Club, which focuses specifically on social emotional learning for our middle school students. These small group activities allow students the opportunity to practice various skills including teamwork and problem solving with one another. We also host after-school community activities and offer regular opportunities for active civic engagement and community service.
At Chronos Academy, our one rule is ROATS: Respect Others and Their Stuff. This covers everything. We say “Please” and “I’m sorry” (even teachers). We ask permission to handle someone else’s creation. We offer help and give encouraging feedback. ROATS is pervasive in our school culture, a central part of daily conversation. Teachers reward “ROATSyness” with stickers and prizes. We even evaluate historical events through the lens of respecting others.
Because our students frequently engage difficult, new concepts and skills, they’re in a constant state of vulnerability. Students need the respect of their classmates and teachers to be safe enough to test their memory mastery, present their research, discuss literature, participate in group projects and use power tools. A ROATSy classroom nurtures the stamina and focus to complete these challenges every week.
In a multi-age classroom, everyone looks out for the littles and looks up to the big kids. Kindergarteners are simply learning how to take care of themselves, but everyone older can help someone who is younger. Empathy skills are even more important than academics, and we prioritize them accordingly. Chronos Academy’s social-emotional curriculum aims students toward full maturity, the ability to sincerely work for the good others.