On a recent Thursday afternoon, a class of second graders were sitting intently in “listening position” in their sharing circle, watching as their classmates role-played the passive, aggressive and assertive way to respond to teasing. Welcome to year two of the Westchester Day School Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program. Based on the Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving Curriculum, WDS students in grades one through five participate in bi-monthly sessions focused on development of self-awareness and regulation strategies, and respectful and productive interpersonal skills.
The WDS mission statement begins with,”First and foremost, a WDS student is a mensch,” and the SEL curriculum arms students with the skills necessary to be just that. Guided by Suzie Marder, WDS social worker, and Morah Amy Kirschenbaum, girls physical education teacher— who also happens to be a social worker, students learn to recognize and regulate their feelings, problem-solve, make good decisions and develop a growth mindset.
Research has shown that acquiring SEL skills also improves academic achievement. Just as it is essential to teach children to read so they can read to learn, it is equally essential to teach these skills so they can successfully navigate their school and home environments and the broader world as they grow up as true mensches.