Behind the Scenes of Social and Emotional Learning

by Paule Ebrahimi, Director of the Learning Resources Program
The Miami Country Day Learning Resources (LR) program provides nearly 100 students grades 6-12 a curriculum that focuses on the same concepts and skills as other college preparatory courses. The differences in the program occur in the method of instruction and in assessment of students. To begin this school year, LR students, along with faculty and parents, participated in a two day Social and Emotional learning workshop.
For two years in the making, after attending a week-long training in California, I advocated to bring The Institute for Social & Emotional Learning (ISFEL) to MCDS. The Institute’s mission paralleled to a major component of the Learning Resources Program, called the MINDS ON! HANDS ON! HEARTS ON! Program. The program supports and continuously develops the social and emotional side of each of us. Among the many goals of the program is the commitment to helping students to:

  • become self-aware as learners
  • acquire and develop strategies to enhance their learning
  • develop meta-cognitive skills that will allow them to reflect on their own learning
  • take ownership of their learning
  • value and develop collaborative learning interactions
Student Conference

On Thursday, August 23rd, students in grades 6 – 12 attended a retreat, entitled “Resilient Learners, Compassionate Leaders” that incorporated breakout sessions on various topics and exercises including:

  • The Open Session – Building connection, empathy and trust through collaboration and self-and group-reflection.
  • Cooperative Games for SEL – Building connection, empathy and trust through collaboration and self- and group-reflection.
  • Self and Other – A deep dive into activities that promote greater self-and social- awareness.
  • (Re)taking a Stand – An exploration of how diversity and inclusion can be encouraged through activities that deepen compassion.
The objectives of the retreat were to:

  • Provide students with experiences and insights to deepen their own Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), and also their relationships with classmates and teachers.
  • Focus on inter- and intra-personal activities in a series of four designed workshops through which students would rotate during the day.
  • Have students learn about themselves, identifying strengths and areas for growth while developing new skills for self-advocacy.
  • Deliver activities will encourage reflection, openness, while developing growth mindset, empathy and compassion.
Parent Morning Coffee

The day after the student conference, an interactive Parent Coffee was held where presenters from the Institute, Nick Haisman-Smith and Rush Sabiston Frank, shared some of the benefits and research to show how Social & Emotional Learning can improve teacher and student climate as well as parent and child relationships. Parents participated in some experiential exercises so they could get a flavor of SEL for themselves.

Teacher Professional Development

On the same day, teachers attended a professional development seminar to build on the momentum of “Resilient Learners, Compassionate Leaders. ISFEL facilitators delivered a customized day of professional development on topics, such as:

  • Overview of ‘It’s Fundamental’ – offering up to date research and principles for effective SEL work with Middle and High School students.
  • ‘Creative Approaches for SEL’ – offering practical SEL experiences alongside an exploration of IFSEL’s Student and Teacher Toolbox.
  • ‘Conflict Resolution, Advocacy and Student Voice’ – offering principles and practices to support students to navigate conflict and disagreement with empathy and compassion.
Parent and Faculty Takeaways

  • Social and Emotional skills are malleable, teachable, and transferable
  • Social and Emotional Learning fosters students’ analytical, communication, and collaborative skills through a combination of direct instruction and student-centered learning
  • SEL provides short-term benefits that include not only safer and more inclusive school environment, but also improved academic performance
  • Students who have mastered SEL competencies achieve better grades, are more engaged in learning and in the school community, and tend to avoid risky behaviors
  • SEL participants demonstrated improved academic performance which reflected an 11-percentile point gain in achievement
  • Students learn to articulate their needs and feelings without blame and judgment;
  • SEL programs have been shown to reduce bullying and other forms of social cruelty by increasing self-awareness, empathy, and understanding among students;
  • SEL benefits continue to aid students beyond the classroom for years to come.
Testimonials from Teachers and Parents

“Great strategies for implementing meaningful student discussions in the classroom.”

“Students and teachers learned a common language to have difficult conversations on challenging issues.”

“The conference centered me as I consider my students’ needs, and those of my colleagues as well, as we begin this new year of growth and discovery. The learning offered a healthy mix of research findings (why) and hands-on strategies for leading classes or other groups to prioritize and value these critical skills (how).”

“Inspiring!! I went home to tell my husband about what I had learned and PRACTICED.”

“Being an active participant allowed me to experience the goals of the program. The activities helped me feel calmer and more connected with my peers.”

“As a parent, I now have a broader perspective of tools that can improve relationships with my children.”

The SEL workshop provided all attendees with tangible tools to learn more about themselves and how to identify strengths and areas for growth while developing new skills for self-advocacy. To learn more about the Miami Country Day Learning Resources program, please click here.
Miami Country Day School is a college preparatory learning community committed to educating the whole child. Through the core values of honor, respect, wisdom and compassion, we prepare students to be lifelong learners. We inspire our children to develop their intellectual, physical, aesthetic, social, emotional and spiritual potentials by valuing every student every day.

Every Student. Every Day.

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