Social Emotional Learning
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is critical to the development of Middle School students. SEL, which teaches students how to regulate their emotions, connect effectively with others, and use and develop their strengths, has been linked with significant, positive outcomes for students, including greater resilience, well-being, and happiness, improved academic grades, and decreased emotional reactivity and stress.
HAFTR Middle School’s SEL initiative, led by Dr. Yali Werzberger, focuses on four pillars. Students are provided with programming, workshops, and activities on the school-wide, classroom and individual level to ensure that they internalize and use the information they are taught to maximize their happiness and success.
Positive Psychology teaches students how to identify, use and develop their key strengths to become happier, more resilient and more successful. All Middle School students will engage in an activity where they identify their key strengths, and will be provided with opportunities throughout the school year to use their strengths, and to reflect on their experiences taking advantage of their character strengths and virtues.
Positive Psychology has also identified how doing acts of kindness for another actually helps one feel happier, more socially connected and more effective. To that end, HAFTR Middle School implements the Pay It Forward Program where each week, two students are nominated to perform an act of kindness. A photograph of the student’s act of kindness is displayed in the Middle School building, and students then nominate another classmate to perform an act of kindness for the following week. In this way, by the end of the year, each student (and faculty member) has done a kindness that they have selected, strengthening the bonds between classmates, peers and the greater community.
Mindfulness is another key strategy and tool that will be taught to students throughout the school year. Students today are increasingly stressed by the many demands placed on them. Research has shown that when children and teens learn how to effectively deal with a great number of demands in a calm and mindful manner, they feel less “stressed out” and become more resilient. Mindfulness is an emotional state that can be taught, cultivated and developed through the use of mindfulness exercises, practice and activities. Students will be taught easy to use mindfulness exercises, that they can quickly utilize when feeling anxious or upset in order to calm themselves down.
Drug and Alcohol Use Prevention
Students in each grade participate in a developmentally appropriate workshop on Drug and Alcohol Use Prevention. Research has highlighted the importance of such programs, finding that appropriate psychoeducation regarding drugs and alcohol is an effective and necessary preventive measure.
Digital Citizenship refers to the appropriate and responsible use of technology. As technology is a pervasive part of our students’ lives, they are taught about the many benefits of technology, and how to utilize it appropriately. Students are also taught about things that are safe and appropriate to post online and those that are not. Disinhibition on the internet, where people say and do things on the internet that they would not do in real life, is also discussed, and students are taught strategies to combat this prevalent trend. Students in each grade engage in workshops that are developmentally appropriate to discuss the appropriate use of technology.
As students grow, it is important they develop an understanding of how to stand up for themselves, and feel confident saying “no” when they are faced with situations or relationships that make them uncomfortable. Students in each grade learn how to identify and stand up for their own personal comfort level through psychoeducation, modeling and role play.
Using a multi-tiered approach that includes school-wide, classroom and individual supports and programs, we are confident that our students will learn and develop skills that will improve their resilience, grit, happiness, and by extension, their academic performance.