Over the past 10 years, there has been a push for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in academia, Director of Student Services Leslie Owens said. People are realizing that in order for students to produce their best academic work, their social emotional status also needs to be addressed. With a return to full in-person learning, Owens views the emphasis on SEL as crucial to students’ success.
“[The administration] feels that getting students connected to their peers, teachers, and school community is one of the most important things we can do to address this year,” Owens said. “We want to make sure that everyone is prioritizing that piece before even some of the academic elements.”
In order to ensure these goals were being met, LT did not allow academic instruction in any classes on the first two days of school (Aug. 19 and Aug. 20). Instead, Aug. 20 focused on SEL lessons to help students learn valuable skills, while easing the anxiety of transitioning back to school, Owens said. Lessons on this day included understanding emotions, learning tools to manage them, and utilizing the resources available at LT.
“I don’t think we should walk away from the topics we went over [on SEL day],” Principal Jennifer Tyrrell said. “Being able to open the door and go back to those topics will be really good for our students.”
Owens agrees that learning SEL skills are not only important in students’ routines now, but can help them for the rest of their lives. One study she looked at revealed that the reasons college students might drop out or struggle in school was due to their social emotional skills, organization, and executive functioning.
“We know that a lot of the students [at LT] have top notch academic skills,” Owens said. “However, it is being able to handle the stress and budgeting their time that is going to prepare them for life beyond high school.”
This year, LT is incorporating elements into the school to help students with their mental health and SEL skills, Tyrrell said. For example, Angel the comfort dog has been visiting North and South Campus on a regular basis to help ease students’ stress.
In addition, the physical welfare department has been incorporating the Yale RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, Rugulating) framework into their curriculum, which helps strengthen students’ emotional intelligence. The framework was developed at the Center for Emotional Intelligence and includes tools such as the Mood Meter to help support students and their emotions.
“My hope is that we can start infusing some of the social and emotional skills into every single class,” Owens said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Math, Science, or English class. There’s a way to talk about these skills that fits right in.”
Erin Townsend ‘22 noted that even little things like teachers offering themselves as a trusted adult to speak to, or asking about students’ days are ways she feels valued as a student.
“To me SEL starts with relationships,” Tyrrell said. “I think when you build productive, professional, and real relationships, that puts us in a position where we can trust each other, which strengthens our culture and community as a whole.”