Theo logs into his bina classroom on a Monday morning. His dad just left for a work trip and Theo is feeling a little sad and unsettled. As always, his teacher does a routine check-in for all learners: everyone takes a moment to reflect on how they’re feeling. Theo and his classmates have common language they use when they’re talking about their feelings and energy levels. Today, Theo shares that he’s feeling a little down and that he’s not sure he’ll be able to concentrate very well on his learning.
Theo’s teacher reminds him that there’s no such thing as a bad feeling– but sometimes we need help taking care of our feelings. Alma, one of Theo’s classmates, asks if he’s got anything in his “toolbox” that might help him feel more focused. After thinking for a moment, Theo asks if they can all do a breathing exercise (his favourite is “hot chocolate breathing”). After a class-wide meditative moment (complete with a little bit of giggling), Theo is feeling seen, supported, and in a better state of mind for learning.
What is SEL?
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a teaching methodology that supports students in their self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship skills. SEL involves explicitly teaching and modelling social and emotional skills, as well as providing opportunities for students to practise and apply them. Students learn how to navigate conflict with others, how to use their voice, how to approach tricky decisions, and how to act with empathy. No one is born knowing how to do this stuff– it all needs to be taught! At bina, SEL holds just as much weight as academic learning– we care about our students holistically and want to help lay the foundation for them to grow into healthy, empathetic, responsible, and self-aware humans.
How does bina incorporate SEL?
Zones of Regulation: Each school day at bina begins with a check-in for all of our learners. Our students take a moment to notice how they’re feeling and verbalise it with language that is comfortable for them (our students are used to using the language of “Zones of Regulation”; each zone is related to a level of energy, and each zone is connected with a colour). Teachers use this common language to create safe spaces and address feelings throughout the learning day.
“Toolbox” of strategies: At bina, we teach and model to our students how to recognise and fully feel their emotions, and we support them in creating a “toolbox” of strategies to take care of those emotions throughout their day. Some examples of what a learner might find in their “toolbox” include: do a breathing exercise, colour / draw, go for a walk, use a fidget spinner, get a hug, be alone, or talk with someone.
Data-driven customisation: In order to make sure we are meeting our students’ individual needs, we collect SEL-related data at the end of each quarter. From our teachers, we request information about their tracking of students’ social and emotional development. Teachers also provide daily feedback about how their SEL sessions went– reflecting on pace, engagement level, and function– and we rapidly make shifts and changes based on their feedback. We continually collect data on what worked and what didn't, as well as what needs to be prioritised with a particular group of students.
SEL themes: Parallel to our academic curriculum, we have curated SEL themes and units, which are inspired by a variety of curricula and standards from around the world. Themes include persistence, kindness, and collaboration. Our SEL themes reflect that we want to support our students in becoming culturally aware, to have ownership of their learning and their goals, teach them about how impactful their words are, and help them consider other people’s perspectives. We teach them how to build meaningful relationships, how to express themselves confidently, and how to be creative thinkers. We want our kiddos to be intentional about how they treat others– and about how they treat themselves.
How does SEL benefit learners?
Students who are empathetic, confident, persistent, socially-aware, and self-aware are more likely to navigate their lives in healthier ways. They are able to face challenges more effectively, build stronger relationships, make more thoughtful choices, and take better care of themselves. SEL provides a foundation for a positive learning environment in the classroom, but it also translates outside of the classroom throughout our students’ lives.