Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a seemingly on-trend term one may often hear in academic circles. While certainly no revelation, research has evidenced the profound value of a community’s embrace of SEL. There is a bounty of research in this area which has inspired the penning of many philosophies on the topic and a wealth of professional development seminars; one recent workshop was so cleverly dubbed ‘SEL Should Be Like Flouride.’ A catching thought with the intention of provoking educators across school communities to consider SEL’s place in their classroom(s).
One may understand the canny concept of imbuing SEL within every facet of a community, were they to acknowledge it not as curriculum but instead as culture. As a framework for culture, the fabric that is a school community is fashioned from what their mission prescribes to- in other words their values, or at Woodland our virtues. At Woodland the groundwork was paved with a tradition of holding high a finite set of fibers that would exist as the essence of our school’s culture and in time become the material to which our graduates held foundation. For correlation, in career and life we may identify SEL with a system that supports higher order, or soft, skills; those essential components that will empower the next generation to ascend in a tomorrow we cannot yet imagine. For their tomorrow, today we prioritize social emotional learning.
In classrooms, and about campus at Woodland, we value students as stewards who lead with compassion. Our teachers invoke their classrooms to courageously explore and to willfully wonder. As students and staff engage one another, they are ethically led by a respect for integrity, a heart for equity, and a mind for gratitude. Each of these encapsulate what be the hallmarks of authentic social emotional learning for our school community. With these, students embark confidently beyond their humble beginnings in Portola Valley, to make conscious choices, achieve goals, accept responsibility, and establish relationships- all with a self (and social) awareness that will allow them to skillfully approach unforeseeable endeavors.
Today the evidence of SEL’s value resides at a remarkable junction informed by avenues of cognitive psychology, educational theory, and neuroscience. The focus on SEL, and its prominence, tribute to our understanding of motivation and well-being as well as a realization that both well-being and achievement can, and should, exist harmoniously. In this awareness, educators have been dutifully assigned to broaden their models for SEL, to visit the scope of relationships in their classrooms, and optimistically broaden the potential of their students in partnership with families and the students themselves.
At Woodland this value of student voice is distinguished from the more modest to the mightily impactful moments shared between students- capturing reasoning, debate, and collaboration. These habits of character emerge in conversational cues from third grade authors deliberating over peer editing workshops to sixth grade scientists methodically engineering designs in laboratory. Further, these components of SEL invariably appear across campus and can be observed in playground resolutions and camaraderie amongst teammates on the field (Go Wildcats!). With the values woven in this fabric of our community, the virtues of SEL, our young bodies and minds are poised to engage feats unknown with habits of character that will perpetually elevate the promise of what lies ahead.