SEL: Free the Heart and the Mind Will Follow

September 10, 2012
All students bring their feelings to the classroom, and smart teachers have always acknowledged the social and emotional lives of their students, knowing that when students feel good in their hearts and bodies, their minds will naturally follow.
(From Education Nation: Seven Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, by Dr Milton Chen, Senior Fellow at the George Lucas Education Foundation)

Dear CAIS Community,

We are excited to be introducing into the Lower School this year a formal social-emotional learning (SEL) program called THE TOOLBOX PROJECT. The Lower School faculty student welfare committee, under the guidance of our counselor Linda Mackay, chose this particular curriculum after much research and review first, because it allows for skill building in the core SEL competency areas: self awareness and self management, social awareness and relationship skills, responsible decision making. Second, because of the simplicity and elegance of this curriculum, it will allow us to develop a common SEL language throughout the Lower School—in English and Chinese classes, in specialist classes, at lunch and recess—to guide our students in understanding themselves and in empathizing and getting along with others. These are skills that have been identified as being as important to success in life as academic skills and are in line with the CAIS mission to “become your best self” and “create your place in the world.”

In the week before school began, teachers were trained in the implementation of TOOLBOX, and they are excited to begin teaching the 12 tools to students. The initial lessons will be presented in K-5 English classes, and as each tool is taught there, the whole school community can then reinforce its use.  During faculty work on TOOLBOX prior to the start of the school year, many of our Chinese language teachers remarked about the similarities between TOOLBOX concepts and traditional Chinese values.  So even as our children learn to access their own social-emotional tools, they will be “embracing Chinese” cultural values.    

We will organize information sessions so parents can get an overview of the program, and as the tools are introduced over the course of the school year we will keep the community informed. Teachers will send home updates describing class work with the tools, and students will be given “Home Connection” activities to promote conversation at home about the tools. Most of us adults realize that developing healthy social-emotional habits is a life long learning project, so working together with TOOLBOX will give us a wonderful opportunity to deepen these skills in ourselves and model them for the children.

We are pleased to be able to offer our students the gift of learning how resilience is built by summoning the resources in their “toolbox.”



PS—If you are interested in reading a recent article about the TOOLBOOK curriculum that appeared recently in the Huffington Post, please click here.