CHS Celebrates International SEL Day as Part of New SEL Initiative


International SEL Day March 11, 2022

This story is part of an ongoing Mental Health coverage series by the CHS Ship’s Log. 

The Cinnaminson School District has implemented Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into its schools. Led by Mrs. Rachel Tait, a new district counselor, the initiative was developed to address student needs and promote student wellness.

Social emotional learning is an educational practice that helps students of all ages control and understand emotions. These emotions are used to spread empathy for others and practice good self-awareness.

Mrs. Tait splits her time between the high school and CMS where she leads students in lessons focused on SEL. She said the strategies she shares with students are customizable in hopes that everyone will be able to take something away from her lessons.

“I think probably a positive for students in the lessons that I teach is that, it’s a little departure from what they’re used to doing in class so it’s not necessarily graded work,” Tait said. “A lot of it is self-reflection or talking to a classmate about something.”

These presentations are designed to help students realize the importance of reflection and relaxation.

“The biggest takeaway I learned from the presentation was that it is important to take a mental break every once in a while,” junior Maddy Luban said, “to destress and reflect.”

In December and January, Mrs. Tait visited CHS English classes to spread awareness about SEL through the “Choose Love Movement.” “Choose Love” is a nonprofit organization that develops character social emotional programs centered around the character values of courage, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion-in-action. Tait taught a second lesson to CHS students in their gym classes in February.

“Before thinking about a situation a certain way, before reacting to a certain person, hopefully stop and think and say ‘well, what if the person is experiencing this?’” Tait said. “Or even question themselves, and say ‘Why am I acting this way?’ or ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ And kind of take a step back and say, ‘Oh well, it might be because of this.’ So hopefully it will gain a little more self-awareness.”

Self-awareness is one of the five principles of SEL. The other four principles are social awareness, responsible decision making, self management, and relationship skills.

One of the most popular strategies Mrs. Tait uses in these lessons is the “Mindful Minute.” The Mindful Minute is a 60-second period of time in which students close their eyes, listen to their breathing, and think about anything. Its purpose is to help students relax and relieve stress.

“It gives you a little bit of a break. A lot of times I’ll tell students to try to focus on a particular thing, whether it’s your breathing or something that makes you feel positive,” Tait said. “We might have a visualization or something that we can try out. But overall, it’s an opportunity to take a break, which I think is especially valuable in a school setting because you guys all have different stuff going on, you have so many assignments, and sometimes there is just so much power in just sitting and not really thinking about anything.”

Students enjoy the mindful minutes as well.

“The mindful minute gives me some time to work through the hectic and stressful school weeks,” junior Adam Miotla said. “It helps me relax and focus my mind on things I enjoy.”

Mindful minute practices are aimed to help students reduce their anxiety and promote better self-awareness.

Mrs. Tait is looking forward to future lessons she’ll share with students, including a lesson on forgiveness and a lesson on love and what it means.

“One of the things I keep talking about is that when we say ‘choose love,’ we mean, love is a form of respect and kindness not just for other people but ourselves as well,” Tait explained.

Tait also plans to have a lesson on compassion in the near future.

“Then, compassion is going to be primarily looking at empathy, and empathy for other people,” Tait said. “That’s a really interesting skill to ‘teach’ because you’re not necessarily teaching people the steps of being empathetic, but more so just looking at being able to look at other people and put yourself in their shoes.”

CHS students are participating in International SEL Day on Friday, March 11. Besides discussing thought traps in English classes, students will also create personal affirmations as part of the day’s activities.