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Social & Emotional Learning

This online handbook reflects some of the essential components of the educational philosophy we strive to put into practice each day at Yorktown.

“The Yorktown Way” brings together many social-emotional learning (SEL) moments, lessons, and reflections from the past six years. The purpose of this handbook is to remind of us the day-to-day ways in which we can model these behaviors for our students.

Thanks to all the staff at Yorktown High School for their input into this handbook and their efforts in ourcontinuing mission to stress both high academic expectations for all students and to model skills andattitudes needed for success in school and life.

Why SEL?

Several years ago, over 95% of the faculty at Yorktown voted to work toward two fundamental goals in the education we provide our students: a first-rate academic education for every student; along with that, the deliberate emphasis on skills and attitudes which promote social-emotional intelligence.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) plays a critical role in improving students’ academic performance. A growing body of research evidence also links SEL to improved school attitudes, improved school climate, and positive student behavior. In brief, enhanced social and emotional behaviors can enhance student success in school – and life.

Many schools make efforts to provide a strong academic program and to provide social-emotional education. Something we have going for us at Yorktown is that it is a collective, not a fragmented, effort. Faculty and staff treat students with care and respect, and expect the same from students. Parents, faculty and students are all aware of the type of learning climate we make a deliberate, daily effort to create in our school. We are far from perfect, but we are committed to continual improvement, and expect that from all members of our school community.

Some of the skills and attitudes we collectively try to foster: self-management; communication; responsible decision making; self-awareness; respect for self, others and the community. We work toward developing a safe, caring and orderly environment conducive to student learning. The relationships our faculty have with students can best be characterized as “caring and respectful,” with a commitment to help all students develop their academic potential through high expectations.

We know that when students learn to self-manage their stress and motivations, and when they set goals and organize themselves, they do better in school. We try to help them learn these skills; we also recognize and celebrate students who have mastered SEL skills, who show empathy for fellow students and others, and who help promote a positive school climate.

No one individual’s efforts help create the kind of school and climate we try to create at Yorktown. It is instead a collective vision and “project”, that requires the faculty and staff to have academic competence, but also to model the SEL skills and attitudes we strive to promote in our students. This makes for an engaging but challenging school environment –for all who study and work at Yorktown.

What is SEL?

SEL — Social Emotional Learning — is the deliberate school-wide and classroom reinforcement of the following skills and attitudes:

  • self awareness
  • self discipline
  • self motivation
  • impulse control
  • persistence to task
  • empathy
  • social skills—courtesy, kindness, appreciation of diversity
  • communication
  • listening

SEL is…

  • The use of teachable moments to help our students continue to learn how to make better decisions.
  • Our agreement, as a faculty, to be responsible for all students at our school – and agreeing not to ignore behavior of which we disapprove.
  • An increased awareness of our professional responsibility to treat others with the same regard and respect we hope to be treated: students, colleagues and parents.
  • The active support of initiatives that support our students’ social and emotional learning along with their academic learning.
  • A recognition that students will not care about what we know until they know we care about them as individuals.
  • A commitment to fostering a broad definition of intelligence which includes social and emotional skills as well as high academic expectations.
  • The collaborative, daily development of a school climate characterized by a uniquely high level of caring and mutual respect.

Yorktown R.O.C.S.

R.O.C.S. stands for “Respect Others, Community, and Self.”

Social and Emotional Learning

SEL focuses on attitudes and behaviors, rather than a set of values, to help students understand themselves and develop skills to successfully manage their lives.  These skills are:

  • Self Discipline
  • Self Motivation
  • Impulse Control
  • Perseverance
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills
  • Communication

Social & Emotional Learning in the Classroom

Recognizing Opportunities for Social and Emotional Learning

Students learn social and emotional skills – in the classroom and via special school programs – through three elements: example, experience, and reflection. These varied modes of learning develop skills in distinct yet complementary ways.

  • Example: As a responsible adult and teacher, you are in an influential position to serve as a role model yourself each day, while also pointing to other role models who appear able to handle, in an intelligent and self-controlled manner, the conflicts that inevitably arise in life.
  • Experience: Consider your curriculum. Where and how is it possible to present students with opportunities for problem-solving, decision-making, and analysis?
  • Reflection: On occasion, provide time for students to slow down and experience the importance of personal reflection as a means to making wiser choices in school and life. If we don’t provide the time, some never take it.

Principles to Remember

A “cookbook” approach to teaching emotional intelligence does not work. Teachers themselves design the most effective lessons for infusing their discipline with instruction in social and emotional learning.

The amount of time a teacher must spend outside the normal framework of their lessons should be minimal.

The goal is not to change a science course into a course in emotional learning, but to use the content of the science class or some specific aspect of the scientific method to reinforce, on occasion, a specific principle of social or emotional learning. A common error is to “overdo” one’s efforts during the first 3 or 4 weeks of school. It is more effective in the long run to plan an occasional lesson and point to specific applications as they arise throughout the year.

The content of some academic disciplines lends itself more naturally than others to the application of social and emotional education. Teachers of any content area have occasions to emphasize, directly or indirectly, hallmarks of social and emotional intelligence, such as self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, and so forth.

The effort will be worthwhile.

Students who learn to develop an awareness of how they feel, how others feel and how their behaviors affect others, become more able to calm down and think when confronted by challenging situations.

The skills must be modeled as well as taught.

Don’t presume that students have mastered such important basic skills.

Think about class dynamics as well as class content. Explicit comments from the instructor on the roles and dynamics within group situations, or cooperative learning experiences, can prove helpful and educational to students.

Be explicit. When an occasion arises to reinforce some aspect of emotional learning, do not assume students will quickly or naturally pick up the implied message of the lesson, material or classroom activity.

Broaden the frame of reference to the whole school. When an appropriate “teachable moment” arises, do not hesitate to refer to student written Goals of Community Behavior.

Used with permission of author. Pasi, Raymond J. (2001). Higher Expectations: Promoting Social Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement in Your School. New York, New York: Teachers College Press.