French American School embraces ‘social and emotional’ learning

Focus on emotional well-being and growth now more "intentional and structured."

By Michele Silbey

Special to the Reporter

The concept of “emotional learning” has been discussed extensively in the media over the last several months. A recent survey by online publication, Education Week (EDWeek) related to social and emotional learning, revealed that teachers believe this type of supplemental education is very effective, but many need more training.

Social and emotional learning is an in-school focus on a student’s emotional well-being and growth. The French American School of Puget Sound (FASPS) on Mercer Island has long embraced these concepts as part of its core curriculum.

“Social and emotional learning has to be at the core of our middle school experience because the students grow up so much during those three years,” said Middle School Head Theresa Lui-Kwan. “We have always included aspects of Social and Emotional Learning into our philosophy, because we wouldn’t accomplish anything if we didn’t. But now it is a bit more intentional and structured.”

In addition to classroom integration, last year FASPS middle school students viewed and discussed the documentary “I am Eleven,” a documentary about children from around the world.  Rosalind Wiseman, the author of the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” which is the basis for the 2004 movie “Mean Girls,” met with FASPS students this past year.

“These issues have always been part of our faculty’s support system for the students, but now that it is part of the core curriculum it has become a higher priority and the educators are taking a more proactive approach to our students’ emotional needs, said” Benjamin Orillon, FASPS Lower School Head.

According to the EDWeek there are five components of a successful Social and Emotional Learning program is social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Social awareness includes adopting the perspective of those with different backgrounds and understanding social and cultural norms.

FASPS, with 425 students from over 50 countries speaking 35 languages, is well equipped to help students understand one component, explained Head of School Eric Thuau.

“At our school you can’t help but naturally be integrated with students from different backgrounds and life experiences,” he said.

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