Pilot program brings social, emotional learning techniques to Dallas schools

Program Focuses on Social Emotional Learning

DALLAS – All kids have stresses, both in school and at home. How a child deals with it can help determine their success, according to some educators.

That's why a growing number of schools are introducing social and emotional learning (SEL) programs into classrooms.

Students in Mrs. Hita’s third grade class at Lorenzo Dezavala Elementary are getting a daily lesson in learning to connect with themselves and others.

When a school day gets too tough, they pause for a few deep breaths.

“Breathe in,” Mrs. Hita instructs her class. “Breathe out. Good!”

Breathing exercises, expressing feelings, and trust exercises are all part of a Social Emotional Learning Initiative happening in some schools across Dallas ISD, right now.

It is a program of strategies and solutions designed to help children respond to struggles, in class and at home, while focusing on learning.

“Our students know that their feelings come and go, and so do their struggles,” said the school’s principal Lisa Miramontes. “The important thing is how they respond to that. How they use their voice.”

Miramontes says Dezavala began incorporating social emotional learning techniques in the classroom in 2015.

“Think about your feelings,” second grade teacher Janis Shaw instructed her students during one of the exercises.

Teachers receive social emotional health training through Dallas ISD’s partner Momentous Institute.

Tina Robertson is the non-profit’s director of clinical training.

”We want kids to be leaders," Roberts said. "So, part of that is understanding how to get along with others in their environment. How to take these strategies home and really use them in their home environment.”

Administrators say Dezavala has already seen quite an impact through social and emotional learning. There have been academic gains, distinctions in English and language arts, and a positive atmosphere.

”Probably the most important impact that we see, is the relationship building between the teachers and the students," Miramontes said.

Dallas ISD is planning to incorporate social and emotional learning programs across all of its campuses over the next few years.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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