Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) develops competencies such as self and social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making, and the initiatives to accomplish these include Responsive Classroom, student support, sustainability, service learning, and student civic engagement. This year, there has been a focused effort to integrate SEL across the Lower School, combining efforts to make a cohesive, positive impact on classroom management and daily student life.
One of the components of SEL is creating a Responsive Classroom—a safe, challenging, and joyful school and classroom climate for all children. Currently, teachers in grades 1-5, specialists, After School Program (ASP) and support staff are being trained in Responsive Classroom techniques. In order to support the different needs and experiences of our youngest students, differentiated in-house training is being conducted with Maternelle teachers.
“We’ve seen immediate implementation of some of the Responsive Classroom techniques—something as simple as using a chime to get students’ attention. The value is in the consistency, across grades and into the After School Program. We are empowering teachers, students, and the ASP staff with common language and tools, creating a more cohesive structure and integrated experience for everyone,” shared Ellen Burdge, Director of Teaching and Learning, PK-5 and Director of Professional Learning and Growth, PK-12.
The Lower School Student Council is helping shape the experience for all students as well. In the beginning of the year, students in each class were guided to think about classroom culture and how they want to learn. They thought about their hopes for the year and collectively determined the rules that needed to be in place in order to support and realize their goals. Student Council representatives, this year including grades 1-5, brought their individual class rules to the group’s first meetings and identified areas of overlap. Lower School-wide rules were developed out of these conversations, giving students a voice in creating their environment and establishing structure. "School is a place for our students to learn and be a participant inside as well as outside of the classroom environment. Through the Student Council, students come together as representative leaders working together on projects for the school and being the voice for their grade level classmates,” shared Dr. Leslie Adams, Director of Student Activities / Vie Scolaire.
Lower School Student Council representatives meet over lunch.
While the work around SEL and a caring culture targets the development of empathy and joy in our students, so do our sustainability, service learning, and—new this year—student civic engagement initiatives. “In addition to empathy and joy, opportunities for active student participation and leadership instill command and confidence,” added Ellen.
Laurent Scotti di Uccio, 5th grade teacher and the new Student Civic Engagement Coordinator, reflected on the work he hopes to accomplish along with his Lower School colleagues this year. “The focus of the work that we are doing, from the Responsive Classroom training to the student civic engagement initiatives, help the students to think about the concept of representation and to realize that they have a responsibility, representative or not, in working to help the school be a better place for everyone. In that sense we are questioning the notion of citizenship, engagement, and leadership, which is really at the heart of the student civic engagement philosophy.”
There will be a parent presentation on Responsive Classroom in grades 1-5 on Tuesday, November 7 from 5:30-7:00pm in Room 142 at the Oak Street campus.