We care about each student as a complete, complex individual. From pre-kindergarteners learning to be respectful during circle time, to seniors navigating the stresses of the college search, we want to foster in all of our students the tools they will need to surmount life’s challenges.
Grounded in our school values, our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Program is based on a research-based framework developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). CASEL’s framework provides a comprehensive approach which focuses on five core competencies, which are taught in many ways in our school community.
The first is self-awareness: the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions, thoughts, and values, and how they influence behavior. This skill empowers students to identify their own emotions, perceive themselves accurately, recognize their strengths, and improve their self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Self-management is critical to successfully regulating one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations—effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. This gives our students opportunities to set and work toward personal and academic goals and to be comfortable in their own skin.
The third competency, social awareness, allows students to see the perspectives of and to empathize with others, including those from differing backgrounds and cultures.
Because the Seven Hills experience leans heavily on establishing meaningful connections and relationships through lively and social learning, relationship skills are refined through every aspect of our students’ education. When they can establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups, students can go out into the world ready to work with others successfully and respectfully.
At any age, responsible decision-making is a crucial skill on a student’s journey toward independence. By making constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms, students shape what kind of person they want to be.
Our educators use works of children literature and the wisdom of many different authors to introduce children to social and emotional concepts. The book Calm Down Time is used with our youngest students to introduce “feeling words” into their vocabulary, begin the practice of noticing feelings, and recognize that there are appropriate ways to respond to feelings. Pre-kindergarteners explore their differences and similarities in a lesson guided by their school counselor. At this age, children are developing the language skills to express their feelings and recognize the feelings of others, as well as see how people are alike and how they are different. In the Early Childhood Center, our school counselor uses the book The Color of Us to help students learn about self-awareness and social awareness in an accessible way.
Teaching mindfulness begins in pre-kindergarten. Our Lower School counselors educate students on how they can be mindful and calm their feelings. Counselors teach breathing techniques and help students visualize concepts with tangible objects, such as a Hoberman Sphere. Counselors believe mindfulness benefits children by teaching them to acknowledge their feelings.
Our teachers know that the best way for children to learn and understand the Seven Hills values is to teach by example. Our educators model kindness, caring, compassion, respect, and empathy in the classroom. This practice of demonstrating model behavior plays an important part in fostering students’ social and emotional development.
Both Doherty and Lotspeich provide comprehensive social-emotional learning programs through classroom guidance sessions. These are regularly scheduled 30-minute classes, provided by the school counselor, for all the students, from 2-year-olds to fifth-graders. We also have added training in mindfulness practice to our classroom guidance programs.
Students study different types of breathing, learn about the different parts of their brain, and growth mindset is introduced in third-grade, integrating the concepts of brain science and mindfulness. Students discover that the best way for our brains to grow is through challenges and mistakes.
Fifth-graders at both Doherty and Lotspeich participate in the annual Kindness Retreat. This tradition brings students together for a day of dancing, music, and group work dedicated to community building while illustrating the value, and power, of kindness. Students leave the retreat inspired and empowered, taking with them a new sense of character and understanding of their peers.
Second Step is an advisory and guidance program that helps students understand the importance of managing their emotions. Using video tools and exercises, students learn that we experience many emotions throughout a typical day, and each of these emotions is often associated with a certain physical response. By learning to get their initial reactions under control and respond appropriately to what they’re feeling, students gain crucial skills for moving forward in the school setting.
Advisory and assemblies are an integral part of Middle School. During advisory, students are grouped by grade into homeroom-like classes, led by an assigned teacher. Our teachers work closely with the school counselor to develop programs and activities that meet the social and developmental needs of students at each grade level. Students are more than peers. In advisories, they become families. Once a week, sixth- through eighth-graders and faculty gather for student-led assemblies. In a manner similar to a town hall meeting, teachers make announcements, awards are given, important information about the upcoming week is shared, and students and teachers work on Second Step activities. Students are permitted to speak if they’re holding the talking stick, which emphasizes the importance of respect and good listening skills. While advisories may become students’ families, assemblies are where the Middle School comes together as a community.
Seventh-graders take part in the Courage Retreat, during which they spend the day participating in group discussions, games, and story sharing, all designed to build self-confidence and promote work with new and old friends. The retreat encourages positive leadership skills and courage, as well as the ability to make good choices. As the day goes on, students take more and more steps out of their comfort zones as they participate in activities that ignite self-reflection and insight.
In addition to serving as the ninth-grade class advisor, the Upper School Counselor plans a number of class meetings for students in all grade levels on social-emotional learning topics, including mindfulness practices, healthy relationships, diversity, stress management, executive function, and inclusion.
Health classes offer a holistic approach to wellness, encouraging students to actively maintain and even improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being. These courses also provide critical information about physical education, nutrition, stress management, drug education, healthy relationships, and sex education, as well as the chance for American Red Cross certification in first aid and CPR.
The Seven Hills Athletic Leadership Team (SHALT) is based on The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual by Jeff Janssen, who is nationally known for sports leadership training. The program brings together coaches and select student-athletes for workshops and guided discussions, with a focus on creating successful leaders and promoting sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and integrity.
Advisory and assemblies play an important role in the lives of our Upper School students. During weekly, student-led assemblies, the entire Upper School gathers in the Hillsdale Commons for announcements and presentations. These meetings build a sense of community, bringing the Upper School’s youngest and oldest students together in one place. In advisories, students are grouped in homeroom-like classes to participate in exciting activities, including the month-long Funuary. Advisories compete to earn points and be declared the Funuary winner. The Upper School goes all in, collaborating and creating, and having fun in the process.