Posted: November 02, 2021 | Author: Karen Gilbert, Yorkshire Academy’s Social Emotional Campus Director

It was the best of times…it was the worst of times. And so begins Charles Dickens’ famed novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” Globally, I think we can summarize our world with these very same words. We ponder how this global pandemic is affecting our children socially and emotionally. Maybe there have been losses in the family or with friends; many missed opportunities for gathering together and adjustments for safety’s sake in their real, everyday world.

Was there ever a better time to continue on, with even greater intentionality and purpose, to secure those basic Principles of SEL (Social Emotional Learning) here at Yorkshire Academy?

The “best of times” are certainly here at school. We love to feel as though something is consistent, fun, safe and strong. A student’s day is very predictable; still allowing for the spontaneous joys and challenges of learning and developing cognitively.

Along the way, we desire to optimize their encounters and interpersonal relationships. Interestingly, SEL supports academics and is foundational for learning as well. We have to lean in on the science and data. There is strong, consistent evidence that SEL bolsters academic performance by as much as 11 percentile points. Wow! When students have supportive relationships (parents, family, teachers) along with opportunities to practice social and emotional skills, academic learning accelerates.

We have the “RULER” framework, developed by Dr. Marc Brackett of Yale University to continue the foundational framework of building our SEL program. These principles guide our developing program here at Yorkshire Academy. They give us real time lessons to incorporate recognizing and regulating our own emotions. If a child can recognize that he is frustrated over a math problem, link in to the best regulation strategy for him, the frustration is minimized and the learning can move forward. Age appropriate teaching reaches every student on campus; from the 18 month old to our 5th graders. The units are taught using an array of different master plans. Songs and active movements characterize the “littles” as they sway and hug themselves to music. Literature pieces strong on emotional principles begin the lessons in class, and the students enjoy different venues of application. The social settings dramatizations are popular, where we mimic real life settings and work through finding our best selves in those moments. Our small circle, intimate share times allow us to have differing viewpoints on how to navigate a complex or “sticky” situation. Our yoga lab is a soothing, peaceful respite to enjoy on days when mindfulness and deep therapeutic breathing is being practiced. Other popular

topics include: Expressing Gratitude, Our Important Words, Digital Citizenship, Self-Regulation, Patience, Being in the Moment, Kindness and Coping Strategies just to name a few. Our body’s CEO (pre-frontal cortex) is being shaped and matured into determining the best and most healthy responses emotionally for our students. One reason children are such adept learners is that their brains are optimized for it. Most young children thrive in low-pressure environments. They’re unafraid of making mistakes. Practicing and discussing these principles while engaging them with their peers sets the stage for a successful encounter when the “real” deal comes their way in life.

“In the worst of times” it would be optimum to come out on the other side with “something” learned. Here’s where we have the application of SEL principles as well: grit, determination, resilience, perseverance, patience and mindfulness. History will record the grim statistics of this sad time. Let’s remain committed to maximizing the opportunities that we have to integrate some “hard times” emotional principles for perseverance into our student’s emotional toolbox. A child’s greatest desire as they work through the hard times of life is to feel supported and loved. This is our joint goal… together... us, here at school… you at home. Let’s learn, practice and grow together, utilizing our “best practices” to come out on the other side with some emotional principles of great value for a lifetime of learning.