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.