The Tools Are in Our Hands

How much better would the world be if every adult returned to elementary school for social-emotional learning (SEL) classes? What exactly is SEL, you ask? Simply defined, social-emotional learning (SEL) is an explicit commitment to teaching students to know themselves, to govern their emotions, and to treat others with kindness and respect. Children who develop strong social-emotional competencies grow into adults who are able to soothe themselves in healthy ways, build authentic relationships, and lead successful and productive lives. I could not be more delighted about the SEL program that we have chosen and integrated at Hamlin this year: The Toolbox Project. The Toolbox Project provides a powerful and comprehensive approach for Hamlin girls to discover the “tools” within themselves to express their feelings and to manage social situations and conflicts effectively. As you know, the theme for the 2013-14 school year gives a nod to our new SEL program and reminds us that we all share responsibility for sustaining Hamlin’s vibrant and inclusive community: The Tools Are In Our Hands.

Please join us TONIGHT at 6 p.m. for an exciting orientation and parent training in The Toolbox Project. Become an expert in the 12 Tools, and leave prepared to use them at home with your children and in your own life! RSVP here.

I wish that all adults would return to elementary school for SEL classes because it would mean healthier decision-making for our world and better role modeling for our children. It seems to me that some adults are moving away from the valuable life lessons learned in Lower School morning circles and Middle School advisory groups, and their lack of respect and self-control is often on full display for children. Road rage, disrespectful email exchanges and social media posts, fistfights between professional athletes, and politicians with unyielding positions and vendettas are just a few examples of adults behaving poorly, and our young people are bearing witness to this significant emotional dysregulation. I have considered the following questions over the last week:

Could the BART strike have been averted if adults were able to listen, use their words, and compromise?

Could the federal government have avoided a shutdown if the President and lawmakers were more adept at using empathy and courage?

We need to ensure that the next generation is prepared to meet the challenges of their time; therefore, they need direct instruction in social-emotional skills from trained adults. As educators, we are using a common vocabulary and SEL curriculum to teach the girls to truly live the Hamlin Creed (compassion; courage; honesty; respect; responsibility) in school and well beyond the school years. Parents can partner with us by going “back to school” tonight in order to learn what social-emotional skills are being taught and to understand how to extend those lessons at home. Together we can model the kindness, respect, self-awareness, and graciousness that we want to see in our children.
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Wanda M. Holland Greene

Wanda M. Holland Greene is currently in her ninth year as Head of School. She is a proud New Yorker and a graduate of Columbia College, receiving her B.A. in English and Psychology. She earned her M.A. in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Wanda complements her work as an educator by serving independent schools and as trustee for Columbia University. She is a vocal performer (jazz, gospel, and soul), an avid reader, poet, and writer.

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The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and  women of integrity.

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