St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
Helping Kids Reach Their Full Potential
The close relationships students are building with teachers now will fuel their desire to learn for many years to come. But just as important is a student’s ability to identify and manage emotions in a healthy way. These skills are developed at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School through their Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program. "The ability to express yourself and handle conflict in a healthy manner serves our whole community,” says Scott Zimmerman, St. Andrew’s director of SEL, adding “it is a key component to our school mission: helping students reach their full potential."
SEL can be hard to spot to an unfamiliar eye, but subtlety is part of its effectiveness at St. Andrew’s, where the SEL curriculum spans kindergarten through twelfth grade. Activities include Lower Schoolers identifying emotions during morning meeting, Middle Schoolers working with test anxiety in advisory, and Upper Schoolers joining the Mindfulness Club so they can practice once a week before classes.
Teaching Kids to Identify with Their Emotions
Third graders are exploring a series of lessons to help them identify difficult emotions, calm their nervous systems when they’re feeling out of sorts, and cultivate positive emotions. In their “modified anchor breathing practice,” they place a hand on their stomach and focus on inhaling and exhaling. St. Andrew’s mindfulness director, Adam Ortman, explains, “If they notice a particular emotion coming up, they name it—maybe silently saying ‘worry,’ ‘sadness,’ or ‘anger’—and then return to the soothing feeling of their breath. They can practice this whenever they notice a charged emotion is getting the best of them.”
Preparing Young Adults for the Future
Peer mentorship and leadership opportunities are offered as students mature. Upper Schoolers visit Middle Schoolers to offer support about social challenges they face, and seniors help freshmen transition to life on campus with small group activities. The students appreciate the results. “It feels really good to be kind,” a sixth-grader noted after a practice emphasizing positive relationships. A classmate agreed. “If I do it, I help people in real life.”
SEL skills carry students into life beyond the St. Andrew’s campus. Scott notes, “It’s our job to equip students with decision-making and self-regulation skills that will help them be resilient in college, in the workplace, throughout their lives. We’re raising young men and women, not just students.”
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