The Importance of Social Emotional Learning During a Pandemic

As we enter into the third school year that has been impacted by the pandemic, the mental wellbeing of our Dragons continues to be of the highest importance to us.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has always been a critical part of the WES curriculum, as it provides the foundation for helping our students become kind, confident, and prepared. But SEL becomes even more critical in light of the pandemic’s impact on our daily routines. Students are returning to the classroom after 18 months of hybrid or virtual learning, unpredictability, and uncertainty.

Our students’ capacity to learn is directly impacted by their social-emotional wellness. Strong academic achievement is built on strong social and emotional skills. Students can only be available to learn when they feel calm, safe, and secure in their environments.

This year, students will have an even greater need to be seen, connected, and known by their teachers and adults. They will also need time to practice following classroom norms, navigating social interactions, and being part of a larger community.

At WES, we are committed to helping our Dragons thrive and to creating a joyful learning environment. During the next several months, we will take a closer look at how we incorporate social emotional learning into our curriculum across all divisions, but today I will share one of the components of our SEL curriculum we are using with our youngest Dragons in Early Childhood (EC).

As part of our SEL curriculum, EC Counselor Debbie Weinberger will be introducing and teaching mindfulness, and our teachers will be reinforcing these concepts and practices throughout the day. Mindfulness is a research-based approach that helps students build both attention and emotional regulation.

Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It can be defined as noticing what’s happening right now. It also includes the intentional nurturing of positive states of mind such as empathy and kindness.

Mindfulness helps our youngest Dragons learn to pause when they feel upset or overwhelmed, during which thoughtful responses can replace impulsive reactions. Our Dragons are learning how to notice and name their emotions, practice mindful listening, and use breathing techniques to calm anxiety and improve focus. Studies find that these practices can bring improved attention, emotion regulation, behavior in school, empathy and understanding of others, social skills, test anxiety, and stress.

It will take some time for our students to adjust as we return to a more normal school year and routine. But the entire Early Childhood team is here to support your family, and please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything.

Danny Vogelman
Head of School