Growing Minds: The Greatest Gifts Are Within Your Child

December 2, 2019

For many in our community, the winter holidays are about the exchange of gifts, broadly speaking – the gift of family, friends, great food, traditions, and of course things. One of the most important gifts, I feel, are those that stem from within each of us: our social-emotional strengths.

Today, Social-Emotional Learning (or SEL) underpins much of your children’s academic, social, and individual success in school. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL is:
… the process through which children … understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Wheeler’s N-8 faculty believe that SEL work contributes to academic, social, and individual success. Put in more human terms, we know a happy, well-adjusted student is more likely to experience academic success. Knowing these benefits and wanting a cohesive N-8 SEL program, the faculty in collaboration with the Wheeler Health Center has adopted the nationally-known, evidence-based, SEL approach called RULER.

SEL benefits to academic success

Some in education, and even in various educational think tanks, classify SEL as a “soft” set of skills contrasted with “hard” skills like reading, writing, and math. This false binary leads some, especially critics of SEL, to separate SEL and academics. Some make a zero-sum argument saying that time spent on SEL work takes away from time devoted to reading instruction.  But consider this:

  • a student who “freezes” before tests and presentations but who learns about identification and regulation of emotions. Through practice, he unfreezes himself and experiences success in test-taking and public speaking.
  • Another example is a girl who, before coming to Wheeler, experienced stomach aches when solving word problems in math. It got to the point she believed she was bad at math. Because her Wheeler second-grade teacher employed a sophisticated blend of math and SEL instruction, the girl gained confidence decoding word problems; her confidence as a young mathematician has grown, something we want for all students, especially girls.


Poster in Kindergarten Class.

SEL at Wheeler

SEL’s benefits go well beyond success in academics; some researchers have established a correlation between SEL and positive life outcomes, reduced social cruelty, and greater resiliency, especially for children who have experienced trauma. The Wheeler Lower School community (Grades Nursery – 5) has recently crafted the following Guiding Principle: As a community, students learn to adapt to and work with the full range of emotion, develop greater self-awareness, and through reflection, discover and embrace their own evolving identities. Students also learn to cultivate healthy relationships through compassion, inclusion and valuing multiple perspectives. 

In our Middle School community,  both the RULER approach and this same Guiding Principle are adapted to fit young adolescents.  Regardless of their age, all of our students experience greater and fuller success with this robust SEL programming. Wheeler’s N-8 approach is truly a gift to all your children.

Young Un
Head of Strategic Innovation and N-8 Divisions

Growing Minds is the periodic blog about Grades Nursery – 8 at Wheeler

Young student holds a glitter jar in class.
A Kindergarten student examines his glitter jar, made by each member of the class as a mindfulness tool for settling the mind and calming the body.


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