Social-Emotional Learning: A Key Component for Educating the Whole Child

A balanced and engaging curriculum is a must for ensuring that young learners develop and thrive in school, but there’s a set of skills that children need to acquire that are just as important as math or science. They have to do with how they maintain relationships with their classmates and teachers, manage their emotions, and solve problems. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, when children around the world were having to learn in separation from their classmates, developing these skills is even more important. They are taught through social-emotional learning (SEL), and they will be a central element of the educational experience at Malvern College Tokyo (MCT).

While the school plans to offer an education that combines the rigor and sophistication of the International Baccalaureate with the unique qualities that have made Malvern College an outstanding academic institution since the 19th century, it will also support and encourage children’s whole development.

Through a variety of SEL methods, MCT will help its students discover how to take on new challenges inside and outside the classroom, make good decisions, and develop empathy. And the approach is one that pays dividends. Studies have shown that students with a strong background in SEL tend to do better academically and demonstrate better attitudes and behaviour in their learning environments. The approach is most effective when it begins early and continues through high school, fostering in students the capacity to blossom into confident young adults.

Taking Lessons to Heart

Another element of SEL is working closely with students’ parents and involving them in the learning process. Malvern College Tokyo will encourage parents to ask their children about their feelings and to be curious about the emotions of their classmates—everything from pride to disappointment. And to reinforce the importance of understanding the spectrum of emotional responses, children will be invited by their parents to think about events or activities that inspire different responses from different people. Games and activities will also be introduced at home, such as guessing different types of emotions based on people’s facial reactions.

Together, families will take part in activities that help generate a deeper understanding of working with emotions, such as keeping a family “Kindness Jar” that can be used to keep track of acts of kindness that children and other family members perform around the house or neighborhood. This thoughtful behavior can be extended further, as many families who practice SEL activities at home find themselves considering ways they can help their communities through acts of kindness.

Other at-home activities include helping children think about how to respond to situations that might make them feel nervous or frustrated. Learning how to anticipate these situations, and potentially act in response to them, will give them the tools that they need to deal with difficult situations as they grow older. Malvern College Tokyo students will learn valuable techniques for managing strong emotions, and older children will be introduced to stress-management techniques. In addition, parents will be encouraged to talk about their own feelings with their children, so they can understand that the skills that they’re picking up at school don’t just apply to the classroom, but to the real world—and adults.

Mindfulness and Resilience

Children will also be encouraged to deepen their capacity to be more mindful in their daily lives, whether this is through being able to appreciate nature more deeply—as they learn through programs such as the Forest School—or by thinking about how to engage in mindful action in their communities.

They will also learn how to develop the emotional capability that will allow them to address and positively respond to conflicts that may come up in their lives, whether these occur at school or at home. The ability to empathize and see situations from other points of views will be a crucial element of this process. Finally, through activities at home and at school, Malvern College Tokyo learners will develop a resilience that will serve them well in their later lives.

As students navigate their learning journey at Malvern College Tokyo, SEL helps them develop the skills to not only succeed in their courses, but to become active, thoughtful, and sensitive members of the global community.

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