Social Emotional Learning
Building character in a purposeful way has been an integral part of a St. Matthew’s education since its founding in 1949. The School incorporates five core values laid out in the Character Covenant signed by every student: Empathy, Fairness, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility. In addition to these core values, St. Matthew’s has made it a priority to support the healthy social and emotional growth and development of its students. Social-emotional intelligence increases academic performance. When students and teachers learn to recognize, understand and address emotions such as fear, anger, shame, disappointment, frustration, joy, and pride, they can increase a child’s ability to engage in learning and a teacher’s ability to teach. Our School Counselor incorporates foundational emotional intelligence pillars throughout the curriculum at each grade level.
Students in Lower School (K-4) are provided with vocabulary and scaling tools to teach them how to identify feelings and give their feelings scale, using devices like a feelings thermometer. Students and teachers also utilize a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Toolbox, a series of twelve foundational skills, to provide a common language for discussion in and out of the classroom. Toolbox skills include breathing, listening, empathy, letting go, apologizing and forgiving, and others. Students learn how to use these tools and practice identifying situations in which they would be helpful. Young students learn to de-escalate conflicts and communicate effectively to achieve positive connections with peers.
In Middle School, Advisories use SEL (Feelings) check-ins and Open Session to spark deeper discussions and learning. Feelings check-ins can be student or teacher-designed and provide ranges of visual examples of emotional-state answer options. Open Session invites students to share any worries they are having, decisions they are facing, or share joys and gratitudes in an anonymous forum where peers respond by offering support, asking for clarification, or sharing wisdom.
In addition, students meet in both small and large groups to focus on grade-level specific topics, skills, and tools. 5th and 6th graders work on communication skills, including understanding the impact of body language and eye contact. 7th graders explore self-awareness and individuality. 8th graders work through the thought-feelings-action triangle toward the ultimate goal of high emotional intelligence that allows for positive self-awareness and social connections.