Social and Emotional Learning at Breck

Natalia Rico Hernández, Head of School

Independent schools educate roughly ten percent of our nation’s children. Our schools are unique in that our missions guide our work. Unlike public schools, we are not bound by federal regulations. Nor are we bound by religious requirements, as are parochial schools. Those of us who choose to teach and educate our children in independent schools share the belief that school and family partner to raise our children beyond the primary purpose of an academic curriculum, allowing our children to learn and grow as whole beings—academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. What's been on my mind is the recent research on the importance of social and emotional learning and the constant evidence of this work living at Breck.

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, social and emotional learning, or SEL, refers to competencies that help students be successful in life, such as self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. As a mission-driven school dedicated to the whole child, Breck ensures these life-long skills are a part of every single child’s experience from preschool through 12th grade. Schools across the country try hard to educate the whole child. Yet, research on social emotional learning is revealing that many schools and districts struggle to find ways to incorporate SEL into their academic curriculum because of constraints by education policies, practices, and core beliefs that are based on too-narrow definitions of student success.

Breck offers our students a challenging and innovative academic program, values their unique individual talents, and instills in them the importance of social responsibility. As an Episcopal school, we are an inclusive and pluralistic community. We believe that honoring many paths to God and exploring spirituality is an important part of teaching the whole child. Families of any faith tradition or none at all are welcome to explore this part of humanity. Our nationally-recognized model for community partnerships builds skills of self- and social-awareness, empathy, and relationship building. These social and emotional skills are lived both explicitly and implicitly in our classrooms, art spaces, and athletic facilities. Through practicing these skills, our students are able to push themselves beyond their own expectations.

In this issue of Viewpoints, various Breck leaders share their insight on social and emotional learning. Their perspectives are valuable because of their expertise, experience, and responsibility. As you read, keep in mind that at Breck we believe social and emotional learning does not live in isolation in any one advisory, counselor’s office, Chaplain’s office, or classroom. As skilled educators, Breck faculty understand that students learn best when discrete skills, socio-emotional or otherwise, are applied to varied contexts in developmentally appropriate ways from preschool through 12th grade. I am proud to share these viewpoints of our faculty and staff with you.

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