var str = Social Emotional Learning|St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School

Social Emotional Learning, Designed Especially for Boys

Social Emotional Learning, Designed Especially for Boys

31 Mar, 2021

By Rosa Tutor, St. Dominic School Counselor

Social emotional learning (SEL) is the process in which children learn and acquire the skills to understand and regulate emotions, foster and maintain positive relationships, set and achieve goals, and practice making responsible and caring decisions. As we work to grow our St. Dominic School boys to emotional maturity, we embrace the fact that SEL is an essential part of education and development.

We firmly believe that in our world today, SEL is just as important as academic learning. It reinforces the importance of school community and the feeling of belonging at SDS. We have found that 96.3 percent of boys report they feel like they belong and feel included at St. Dominic School through our monthly wellness surveys. It is our hope that the sense of belonging they develop here will help them to become future happy, healthy, connected members of society.

At St. Dominic, we ensure that social emotional learning is an integral part of each boy’s educational experience. As School Counselor, I begin planning a social emotional learning experience for the boys based on needs assessments delivered to SDS families, teachers, and the boys themselves. Inviting our stakeholders to voice their input gives us the ability to tailor and personalize the social emotional learning to fit the exact needs of the SDS school community. After reviewing the beginning of the year needs assessment, a social emotional learning curriculum is built and designed especially for the boys, in collaboration with their classroom teachers.

We begin each morning with an SEL activity, our “Morning Mindset” program. Morning Mindset is a scheduled time each morning, after morning movement, that focuses on mindful breathing and intentional goal setting. Grades 1-6 have a Morning Mindset workbook which includes breathing exercises, growth mindset reflections, and a “feelings check” for each day of the week. When I asked our first grade teacher Lauren Harkess about the impact of the program on her classroom she shared: “I love that Morning Mindset gives my boys the opportunity to learn new strategies to handle emotions. It’s also a great way to discuss gratitude and thankfulness each week! The boys are always so excited to learn the new breathing technique each week!”

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Classroom counseling lessons focus on specific skills ranging from identifying emotions in Kindergarten to the importance of mental health in 6th grade. Each lesson is designed specifically for boys with hands-on projects and movement based activities. The boys have created a wide variety of coping tools to aid them when they feel angry or frustrated, like their own stress balls with balloons and rice, thera-putty with essential oils and food coloring, and calm jars to help them practice deep breathing. SDS 5th grade teacher Alison Garibaldi explains, “I have found that after spending more time educating boys about SEL they are making better choices when they find themselves struggling. They have a bigger toolbox of techniques to use to calm themselves, assess the situation, and then address the issue at hand.”

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SEL is also implemented through the SDS “Trait of the Month”. Each month focuses on a specific component such as empathy, growth mindset, and teamwork. Boys have the SEL Trait of the Month bulletin board as a visual reminder of the trait, definition, and how they can use that trait in their everyday lives. We also try to expand our SEL activities to benefit the larger school community when possible. For example, the boys were able to design and paint kindness rocks which were spread across our SAA-SDS campus to build a community of care and kindness.

Through the customized and tailored social emotional learning experience, St. Dominic School boys learn and acquire the skills to understand and regulate emotions, foster and maintain positive relationships, set and achieve goals, and practice making responsible and caring decisions. Through social emotional learning, designed especially for boys, each of our students knows that St. Dominic School is a safe place to express themselves and feel like they truly belong!


Rosa Tutor has been professional school counselor for 6 years. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from The University of Memphis.  In June, she will present a session entitled Going Beyond "I'm Fine:" Creating an Environment Where Boys Open Up at the International Boys’ Schools Coalition Annual Conference.

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