For the second year in a row, students at the Wilf Lower School Campus began the year with grade levels focusing on our initiative on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Establishing rules used to be a focus of the first day in class; now, students come together as a grade to create an Emotional Intelligence Charter using RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotion) − an evidence-based approach for integrating social and emotional learning into schools developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.The charter is a collaborative document that helps schools establish supportive and productive learning environments. It includes how students want to feel at school, the behaviors that foster those feelings, and how to handle uncomfortable feelings and conflict.
Each year, our faculty creates a charter as well. Once all of the steps of creating a charter are modeled, the teachers and specialists are better equipped to take the same tools and create their own grade-level charters with their students.
By working together to create the charter, everyone establishes a common goal and holds each other accountable in building a positive culture. It helps to foster genuine connection between students, while providing a shared vision for the class.
During the first week of school, students in Grades 2-5 began brainstorming feelings that they want to experience each day in school. They grouped words that go together, such as “happy,” “excited,” and “joyful.” They selected and agreed upon the top five emotions they want to feel in school every day. In teams, they described what each of these feelings will "look like" in terms of measurable or observable behaviors in the school. In small groups, students also thought about uncomfortable feelings and unwanted behaviors they would like to avoid experiencing in school. They discussed and described how they would handle these feelings and behaviors, including how they would prevent and manage conflict. Every student signed the charter, which will be displayed in the classrooms.
Our Early Childhood grades (Ganon, Gan and First grade), also met to introduce some of the tools they would be using in their classrooms. In First grade, they began to create a community of learners who understand the importance of social-emotional development. They are using a new SEL curriculum on character building and began with a lesson that focused on respect for each other and their classroom. Each week they will focus on a different social-emotional topic, which will help guide them in developing good character.
In the Gan classes, teachers introduced the Mood Meter, enabling students to identify and describe their feelings using a colorful visual map of different emotions. The session began by looking at different colored papers and talking about how each color makes them feel. They continued to explore describing emotions and feelings via colors through the reading of Dr. Suess’ “My Many Colored Days.” The students are now able to move their photo on the SMARTBoard to different places on the Mood Meter to communicate how they are feeling each day.
The Mood Meter will also be introduced in Ganon as well, as these students are just beginning to explore the depths of Social-Emotional Learning. They spend precious time every morning greeting each other formally and asking, “What’s your name?” These seemingly tiny skills give each child great power to navigate the new and growing world around them.
The feelings and well-being of each child truly matters to us here at Golda Och Academy, which is why this valuable time is dedicated at the beginning of the school year. We are excited to see the growth and development of our students as our teachers continue to incorporate Social-Emotional Learning in their classrooms throughout the year.