RCDS presents "A Word from Our Experts", a blog-like piece authored by our expert team of faculty and staff. See here for a word from Director of the Advisory Program and Upper School English Teacher Cara Horner who explains what social emotional learning (SEL) is and why it is so important to teach our children. Cara has studied the components of social emotional learning for several years and presents frequently to the entire faculty. Continuing to attend to the social and emotional needs of our students of any age is particularly important during this unprecedented time as we engage in remote learning.
Some 2,000 years ago, Plutarch had this to say about education: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled."
But before that spark can happen, research has shown that students of all levels and ages need to feel safe, calm, and supported. The practices that fill these needs (and thus provide Plutarch's kindling) are commonly referred to as social emotional learning, or SEL. Social emotional learning is the process through which people learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically, and develop positive relationships.
Why is it important to teach to these processes, both explicitly and by modeling? Because they make happy children. In 2014, researchers in the Wellbeing Research Program concluded that "a child's emotional health is far more important to their satisfaction levels as an adult than other factors, such as if they achieve academic success when young, or wealth when older."
SEL is woven into the fabric of the Rumson Country Day School experience. A fly on the wall of a lower school classroom would observe the myriad ways that faculty teach subject content with a side of self-awareness, self-management, and decision-making. The unusually close student-teacher relationships and peer group bonding that have long been a part of the RCDS tradition provide the perfect opportunities for students to practice social awareness and develop relationship skills. And in the Upper School, a uniquely robust Advisory Program is a dedicated space to advance and deepen these skills and habits.
Now, in these unprecedented and strange times, our children may be feeling less safe, calm, and supported than ever before. As a school, there are many things that we can and will do virtually and at a distance to continue incorporating social emotional learning into our curriculum and programs. But the role that parents play in all of this is, and always has been, so much more impactful.
Below, please find a curated list of SEL activities, articles, and links that you may find helpful. But please know, none of this has to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, the simplest and most effective advice that I have come across for a purposeful day is just a checklist of four items. Each day, encourage your child to:
- Do something for your body
- Do something for your mind
- Do something just for fun
- Do something for someone else
Achieving these four things will allow kids (and adults, too) to have a day replete with social emotional learning- without even trying.
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