In Bellingham Public Schools, our schools and classrooms implement social and emotional learning (SEL) in a variety of ways. With the adoption of SEL curriculum last spring, practices have taken hold across the district. These practices enhance and develop the character-based outcomes in The Bellingham Promise, those that are not taught in a standard textbook or on a worksheet. Social-emotional learning develops leaders and team players, and fosters confidence, respect and compassion, to name only a few of those outcomes. This learning also underscores the core beliefs in The Promise that states that all children should be loved and that the whole child is important.
Like most elementary schools this school year, principal Mylo Allen and his staff at Parkview Elementary School have worked diligently on the implementation of social-emotional learning. Allen says that the morning circle is his school’s area of focus with a goal of every child in the school participating. “At its core,” he says, “the use of morning circle is an intentional strategy to develop and strengthen the relationships within each classroom.” All classrooms at Parkview use the morning circle structure.
In addition, staff across the district have implemented other components of SEL curriculum this year. These include cross-grade “buddy” classroom activities that strengthen student relationships schoolwide, and activities that highlight positive character traits such as cooperation. Elementary school staff have also attended SEL professional development learning that helps them create a classroom environment that supports all students.
Two Parkview classroom teachers share SEL reflections below:
MICHELLE JACOBS, KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Morning circles are a wonderful way to set the tone for the day and the SEL curriculum has provided new creative ideas, routines and ways to connect with each other. In kindergarten, we learn to take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and take care of our school. We practice these guiding concepts through our daily interactions, stories, and activities, as well as during morning circles.
During a typical morning circle, we sing together, practice a greeting, share about ourselves, and discuss a specific topic. As part of our daily routine, we choose student helpers for the day, offer the flag salute, and look at the calendar and schedule in order to plan for our day and week. We incorporate a variety of literacy and math skills into our morning routine as well. Having a daily morning meeting provides opportunities for us to show loving-kindness, share experiences, talk about our day, problem solve, and model positive social interactions. I appreciate that our school district values the whole child and is emphasizing the importance of social-emotional learning for all students.
MORGAN MASSEY, FIRST GRADE TEACHER
In first grade, morning circle begins with a greeting. This can be a handshake, high-fives, songs, and more. Greeting each student every day lets them know it is important they are here. During the meeting, we also review our schedule for the day and go over any “housekeeping” items. In my classroom, we reveal a “secret student” every week. I provide clues about the student, then students get to interview and ask the student questions about themselves. This is one way we are getting to know each other.
Using the SEL curriculum has had many positive impacts on our classroom. From day one, students develop an understanding that this classroom is a place where they are cared for and that their presence is important. Students are given structured opportunities to get to know one another, build caring relationships, and develop social skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Implementing the SEL curriculum provides me as a teacher with the tools and the time to teach and develop social-emotional skills which are critical to learning and to life in general. I am so appreciative of Bellingham Public Schools for investing in this important work and in supporting the whole child.