SEAL in the Classroom – Is it Essential?

At the risk of stating the obvious – children come to school to learn.

They learn a myriad of things – which can broadly be placed into three categories – the learning of knowledge, the learning of skills and the learning of attitudes.

Traditionally schools were set up as pillars of knowledge. In 1854 Charles Dickens in his novel ‘Hard Times’ highlights the purpose of schools as to:

“Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are what are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else…nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

Times have changed so much since then – and for those of us living in the UAE, things are thankfully nowhere near as hard as they were in the landscape presented by Dickens.

We have also realised that there is so much more to education than the acquisition of facts.

Naturally there is a wide range of views about what constitutes high quality learning. It is widely accepted that children learn best in an environment that children feel safe, engaged, connected and supported and as such schools have a responsibility to ensure that children have access to such conditions. There is plenty of research that links positive school environments to high levels of attainment, high levels of attendance, positive relationships across the school and a sense of belonging. This is sometimes referred to as ‘School Connectedness’ – the knowledge and belief that staff in school care about the children as individuals as well as their learning. It is widely believed that children are more likely to succeed when they feel connected to the school.

Having been a school leader in the UK and UAE for over twenty years, I have developed a few stock phrases that I often use to share and relay my philosophy of education – and one of these is that it is the job of all of us in school to help every child have amazing learning experiences that make them love coming to school and not want to go home at the end of each day.

SEAL – learning and teaching about the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning is an integral part of the curriculum that supports this aspect of school connectedness. Through whole school assemblies and class lessons, children learn how to learn and – in a non-threatening way, they learn how to deal with a range of issues such as developing a positive self-esteem, getting on and falling out and being a responsible citizen. The new UAE policy of every child having access to Moral Education fully underpins this.

When the Aquila School opens in September 2018, the week will start with a whole school assembly exploring an aspect of SEAL which will then be followed up in class for the first lesson of the week – providing the whole school with a shared sense of purpose and a positive viewpoint – ready to start a week of amazing learning.

Wayne Howsen
Principal, The Aquila School

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