SEL Update

By Theresa Powers, Program Director

MSSA continues to nurture and grow our social and emotional skills for both adults and students.  Recent SEL news:

•  The Lower Elementary teachers did a wonderful job preparing their students to present about peace in their classrooms at the recent PTC meeting; the students showcased skills and strategies they use for peaceful conflict resolution as well as ways to calm themselves.

•  Five members of the SEL committee have recently begun RULER training through the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.  The training is over six weeks and consists of virtual and recorded sessions.  The RULER team includes School Counselor Jessica Harrison, Music Teacher and Specials Representative Becca Morgan, UE Teacher Cassandra Trevino, and LE Teacher and LE Level Representative Maria Flores, and Program Director Theresa Powers.  We are excited to share what we learn.  Read more about RULER and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence here:

•  On Tuesday, March 7, MSSA will host a Parent SEL meeting at 6:30 pm.

In classrooms, teachers continue to work on SEL skills in a variety of ways.

Upper Elementary students use SEL daily in morning circles and transition periods, as Ms. Anne’s students play charades to act out and identify different feelings and emotions, broadening their vocabularies and connecting feelings and emotions to universal human needs.  Students also read fables aloud during circle time and discuss morals and how they can be applied. In circle time they also emphasize personal strengths of students and highlight how they contribute to supporting the classroom and MSSA community including offering thanks for kind deeds from the day.

Students in Mr. Pettit’s class recently responded to this writing prompt: “Write about a time you practiced a new skill.  You can write about a sport, game, musical instrument or something else.  Did you get better? Tell what you did and how you felt.” This prompt gave students an opportunity to express their feelings in their writing, and then it led to a bigger discussion.

Both Lower and Upper Elementary students work on self-management through the use of their planners, setting daily and weekly goals for their work, promoting organization and time management. And each Monday in Middle School, students write a goal in their planner to encourage healthy habits.  Most goals focus on practicing empathy, engaging in activities that promote happiness, and balancing activities in their lives.

Responsible decision-making is a key component of SEL, and UE students recently worked together for a solution to the question of “what is a fair way to invite friends for friendship lunch from another classroom?” The solution the children proposed was using the job chart as a guide so that daily a different student could invite a friend from another classroom for lunch.  The outcome has been very successful.

SEL happens in the Specials classes too.  In Music classes, students have discussions about grace and courtesy and what it looks like and really means to use courtesy with “kid” words as they make transitions throughout class time and work on how to refocus if focus is lost.

In the Spanish classroom, students collaborate with peers on activities and projects.  As they do so, they are guided to listen to each other gracefully and to validate everyone’s ideas.  Students experience learning through activities that create space for their individuality, creativity, and interests.  The Spanish classroom provides a peaceful corner equipped with books with positive messages where students can go for a moment of peace and comfort.

In Art class, students study skin color variations in the human family, and study the science behind differences in skin color. This contributes to social awareness;  as well, classes examine facial expressions and body language and what they communicate to others.  This also develops self-awareness and social awareness.  The Peace Corner in the Art Room is available when a student needs time apart from others to regroup, and a student may ask to move to that spot at any time. It contains a Zen painting pad, some simple yoga cards for breath and positions that can assist with self-care, cards with information about different artists’ styles, and books that include some optical illusion images that can help students see things in new ways. This is for the purpose of self-management during discomfort. Classroom critiques also provide opportunities for students to give constructive feedback to each other and appreciate originality, differences in techniques, and skill levels.

We know that social and emotional learning builds life skills; we also know that students with greater emotional intelligence are more self-confident in managing academic challenges, as they can better manage any negative feelings that might disrupt learning.  We look forward to sharing more about how SEL happens at MSSA, and we hope to see you at the parent meeting on March 7.

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