The Middle School faculty incorporates Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, into their teaching practices on a regular basis. SEL competencies are presented to students as three main ideas: Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself. Classroom activities and discussions around SEL allow students to be reflective in both their academic and social worlds. Students are encouraged to recognize their own strengths and challenges, to set personal goals and noble goals, to learn about multiple intelligences, and to understand and appreciate differences.
Opportunities for SEL abound in Middle School. Our faculty skillfully weaves this instruction into their curriculum and into activities such as Documentary Film, STEM Fair, musical performances, art projects, overnight trips, athletic tryouts, community service, and the high school selection process. Along with the Middle School advisory program, SEL in all Middle School subjects supports individual students’ development and also promotes a Middle School climate of caring and tolerance.
Advisory involves small group meetings two times per month focused on Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, the tenets of which include:
Advisory provides a supportive environment and an outlet to voice concerns and to benefit from the collective wisdom of the group. Advisory is primarily student driven with some direction instruction provided in SEL skills and the overall concepts of Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself.
“Check In” is used at the start of each class to help students develop self-awareness and empathy. A variety of techniques are used for Check In’s, the most basic being that each student chooses and shares with the group a number from 1-10 that matches their mood or their day. Students have the option to share more about why they selected a particular number. Students benefit from this pause in their busy lives to reflect and to consider others’ perspectives.
The Open Session format, created by Janice Toben, is often used in Advisory class. In Open Session, students respond to student-generated issues through intentional, supportive exchange of listening and ideas. Index cards are used so that students can anonymously bring questions or concerns to the group. The cards are also often used to share accomplishments. The Open Session is facilitated by an adult selecting and reading the cards aloud and students offering advice, support, and clarification.
Advisory class is not intended to be a group therapy session. It is designed make all students feel accepted and welcome and to nurture positive relationships that can influence the overall middle school climate. Advisory class promotes a culture of caring and tolerance by helping students to recognize and accept differences, communicate effectively with one another, and practice conflict resolution skills.
Confidentiality regarding specific details and names is an important aspect of creating a safe and open environment during advisory period; however, students are encouraged to talk with friends, teachers, and their families about the themes and ideas that arise out of class and to practice the skills across settings.
A grade of pass/no pass is given for Advisory as well as a citizenship grade. While all students are encouraged to participate verbally, the Advisory teacher understands that students have varying levels of comfort with certain types of discussions and that students fall across a wide spectrum of introversion and extroversion. There are many opportunities to participate nonverbally and to show support for others through active listening. All students are expected to contribute by having regular attendance, showing respect for their classmates and the teacher, and following whole class agreements.
In addition to the Advisory program, all Middle School teachers serve as student advisors. Each Middle School student is assigned to a particular teacher. That teacher is available to speak with his or her students if necessary. Of course, a student should always speak with any adult who he or she feels comfortable with, but having assigned advisors guarantees that every student has an ally. Also, teachers will check in with their students from time-to-time, and we hope to build in structured time for advisors to meet with their students.