Social Emotional Learning — Creating Habits of Mind
That Last a Lifetime
The late Stephen Covey, educator and author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People once said, “Begin with the end in mind.” In the case of Social Emotional Learning, the “end” for students should be a fully developed tool kit they can use throughout their academic career and beyond. In this writer’s opinion, it is critical for students to begin developing this tool kit as early as kindergarten, which establishes a solid foundation upon which to grow. Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, is defined as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” (CASEL, 2019).
A school psychologist by trade, I have always believed in the power of Social Emotional Learning. The superintendent position has afforded me the opportunity to work with the Cranbury Board of Education to expand Social Emotional Learning opportunities in the district. Health and wellness are key focus areas. Beginning in September 2018, faculty engaged in targeted professional development around the topic of SEL. The CASEL Framework was introduced and explored. The Framework highlights five core competencies — Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making. Continued work will be conducted in this area moving forward. Moreover, all staff members participated in professional development around teacher wellness and mindfulness, which is of critical importance. Middle School and special area teachers also participated in training focused on incorporating “brain breaks” during classroom instruction.
One of the actionable steps we have taken to further incorporate SEL practices this year was the adoption of the Pure Power curriculum, which is an open source curriculum free of charge to schools who partner with the Pure Edge non-profit organization. The curriculum is based on five principles — Body, Breath, Mind, Attention, and Engagement. Kindergarten through fifth grade students participate in Self Awareness Management instruction once per week, provided by the school counselor. The classroom teachers also participate in lessons and continue to incorporate and reinforce the strategies daily and weekly with students, thereby becoming a part of the classroom culture. We piloted the program during the 2017-2018 school year and began full implementation in 2018-2019. We have seen positive signs of success to date! Students are gaining the tools they need to manage and control their own emotions, minimize stress, and increase focus. These personal competencies are helping students to combat stress and anxiety at an early age. The West Windsor Plainsboro School District with Superintendent Dr. David Aderhold, leading the charge, has also partnered with the Pure Edge organization to further enhance social emotional learning for their elementary and secondary school students.
Please take a moment to view a brief video created by The Cranbury School District and the Pure Edge organization, or visit their web site at http://pureedgeinc.org/ for more information. It is our goal to help students develop social emotional habits of mind that will last them a lifetime!