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Student engagement and academic success bolstered by social-emotional competencies

Student engagement and academic success bolstered by social-emotional competencies

By Jay Scheurle |

“You’ve told me how you want to feel at school — respected, supported, confident. What does respect look like? What does it sound like?” This is how an Upper Elementary teacher helped to prepare the students in grades 4-6 for the next steps in creating their classroom Charter.

[Making a Charter is something all students at Oak Meadow do, in the first few weeks of school. It’s a “social agreement” developed by the students themselves, with guidance from the teacher. The Charter is based on how students want to feel, outlines what they agree they will all do to make sure everyone feels that way, and provides guidelines for navigating inevitable mistakes and missteps. Because students make the Charter together, the process itself raises self-awareness and social-awareness, encourages responsibility for self-management and good decision making, and leads to opportunities for students to improve their social and emotional skills throughout the school year.

According to national research, when students are in an environment that provides a positive, interpersonal climate that facilitates socialization, students are much more likely to be engaged in school and do better academically.]

The upper elementary teacher continued her introduction to the day’s activity. She shared some examples of what “respect” looks and sounds like. “For instance respect might look like waiting your turn, careful listening, or helping each other. Respect might sound like excuse me, thank you, please, and speaking clearly. I would like you to work in small groups to come up with your own ideas about what you will do each day to make sure everyone feels respected, supported, and confident.”

My next stop was a Lower Elementary classroom (grades 1-3). These students made posters for their classroom Charter, and the finished posters were displayed on the wall as a reminder about their classroom agreement. The teacher shared with me, “when the students create the physical posters versus just me typing up the charter and posting it, you get more buy-in from the students.”

I’ve seen clear evidence at Oak Meadow that our comprehensive social-emotional curriculum engages students on a very personal level and positively affects individual academic results as well. It is also evident to me that the development of SEL competencies in students provides them with real life skills that they need in the world they are growing up in today.