For the 2021-2022 school year, Crofton House School is prioritizing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as an important part of our approach to educating the whole girl. It’s also part of the province’s guidelines—we’re proud that BC is one of the first places in the world to call for SEL integration in the K-12 curriculum. We are excited to give special attention to working with our staff and students to weave these skills throughout CHS programming going forward, especially as the effects of the pandemic on our mental health are revealed. This approach complements what we’re already doing through EDI training, trauma-informed practice, and Ivy Compass learning.
What is SEL?
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “... the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Practically speaking, it is a set of skills that help students develop positive relationships, apply their compassion, and stay open to learning throughout their lives. SEL helps normalize emotions, and teaches tools and strategies to share how we’re feeling, and how to self-regulate. It includes learning how to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, be respectful, and feel empathy. “We need to show students real-life situations so they can apply these skills on the playground, or in communicating when they need support in the classroom,” said Chantal Eady, Coordinator of Student Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning. “It’s really giving them the power to advocate for themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.”
“We used to focus on intervention; but SEL shows us we can help students avoid problems in the first place,” said Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, an Applied Developmental Psychologist and a Professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), who spoke to CHS staff earlier this month. “It’s like comparing a life vest to a life preserver. These are tools that can help students build resilience.”
Why do we need it?
In a landmark study—CASEL’s 2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving school-based, universal SEL programs including over 270,000 students in K-12—it was shown that SEL helps students gain:
11 percentile-point increase on standardized tests scores
Social-emotional skills including kind behaviours
Improved attitudes about self, others, and school
Positive classroom behaviour
SEL is core to student wellbeing, but we can see it is also a key contributor to academic achievement. When students feel safe and secure, they are more open to learning and creativity. Studies also show that these skills can rival IQ in predicting educational attainment, labour market success, health, and criminality.
“Imagine people were able to vocalize what they were feeling and then ask for what they need,” said Ms. Eady. “To be able to identify what's happening for them and to know that we don't have to be happy and feel good all the time—we're supposed to feel uncomfortable sometimes. I wish I’d had this message when I was younger, but I’m passionate about sharing it now.”
Crofton House and SEL
To emphasize our commitment to SEL, Crofton House School has brought on two coordinators of student wellbeing & social and emotional learning: Chantal Eady in the Junior School, and Jo Kimmel in the Senior School. Together, they’ll lead the CHS community in applying SEL. In this first year, they aim to help teachers get to a place where they can explain with confidence and certainty what SEL looks like, and what it feels like for our students.
Ms. Eady (left) and Ms. Kimmel (right) are leading the coordinators of SEL at Crofton House School
“We’re going to start with the adults because we need them to model what we’re looking for. But we’re really determined that this doesn’t feel like an ‘add-on,’ or one more thing for teachers to put on their plate,” said Jo Kimmel, Coordinator of Student Well-Being & Social and Emotional Learning. “It is the plate.”
Ms. Eady and Ms, Kimmel hope that over the next three to five years, SEL is fully integrated in the learning and physical contexts at Crofton House School. "We wouldn't expect students to learn how to do calculations in math without being taught the fundamental skills. The same applies to SEL,” said Ms. Kimmel. “We have been given an amazing opportunity to upskill students by teaching them how to be effective communicators, talk about their emotions and build healthy relationships."
“I dream that one day, girls get into a disagreement in the school yard, and they're able to work through it with respect. They're able to share what they're feeling by saying, ‘it really frustrated me when you said that,’” said Ms. Eady. “If they're able to resolve conflicts without disrespect and without outside support, we are succeeding.”