Written by Erin Cain, Program Associate, Fordham PDRC
October traditionally can be a month of comfort in the classroom as students and teachers alike settle into predictable routines and become familiar with each other. After the excitement and buzz of the first six weeks of school, it is imperative for educators to take a pause and assess how their classroom is developing to ensure a successful school year. Among many teachers, a high priority in creating an effective classroom is emphasizing the importance of community. One of the ways that principal Jenis Connelly establishes community in classrooms of Preston High School in the Bronx, is by focusing on social emotional learning, or SEL.
Social emotional learning is an educational approach that aims to help students develop their social and emotional skills through five focus areas: self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and self-management. Helping students learn more about themselves and the community around them can have a positive impact on their personal growth and their ability to empathize and build relationships with others. SEL helps students to identify their emotions and to generate positive social interactions among peers. In addition to emotional growth, research notes that including social emotional learning in classroom curriculum boosts academic performance and encourages a growth mindset among students. Students can reach academic goals and face challenges when they feel supported by their peers. Finally, using SEL practices helps to generate a community rooted in equity.
With SEL practices, teachers can employ culturally responsive teaching methods to ensure that every student in the classroom feels welcome and is equipped with the social, emotional, and academic tools they need to succeed. Ms. Connelly is dedicated to forming well-founded relationships among her staff and students. She utilizes SEL strategies among her faculty, making sure that they have opportunities to celebrate with each other, and bond as a team. She encourages her staff to model positive interactions for the students, and to get to know the students on a personal level, to produce a genuine sense of community in the school.
SEL has benefited students in every grade level, from preschool to high school. It is essential for teachers to incorporate SEL activities into everyday learning for student growth, while realizing social emotional learning in the classroom will look different at every grade level. For example, teachers in the elementary grade levels might utilize a morning meeting or a morning check in to help students become aware of their emotions and connect with each other before jumping into the learning process. At the middle and high school level, more opportunities for student collaboration and partner work could promote healthy discussion habits and relationship building skills in the classroom. Ms. Connelly emphasizes the importance of building relationships among peers as an essential part of the SEL endeavor at Preston. Freshmen are paired with junior sisters, who connect with them at events throughout the school year to navigate the challenges of freshman year. Students are given the opportunity to moderate DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging) specific homeroom sessions to promote essential community building discussions among students. These methods are only a few of the ways that SEL is embedded in the school culture at Preston High School.
As the school year continues, teachers should continue to strive to utilize SEL practices in their classroom and evaluate the effectiveness of those practices in cultivating positive classroom culture.
At the PDRC, we will continue to provide resources and webinars dedicated to the promotion of social emotional learning. We are here to support the professional development needs of the schools in which we serve.
To learn more about the PDRC and how it can support your learning community, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.