Upper School
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

5th Graders Learn Skills to Handle Self-Esteem, Peers

As part of St. Andrew’s ongoing K-12 Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, the fifth-graders were split into boys and girls groups this month to discuss different topics with SEL Director Scott Zimmerman and LS/MS Counselor Brearley Khan.
The boys spent their time considering the power of their words with Scott Zimmerman. Scott explained, “At this age, the boys start to recognize the physical, emotional and intellectual differences in one another. We discussed how young boys try to keep the playing field level by teasing, and how this can have a lasting impact on their confidence and self-esteem.”

In one exercise, Scott had the boys write down answers to questions he posed, like “Which boy in your class is most likely to invent something?” and “Which boy is most likely to beat the latest video game?”  Even if the boys didn’t all agree on who was the best fit for each question, Scott said, “Our emphasis was on using our words to build one another up and to recognize when they are 'throwing darts' to keep their peers - and themselves - from rising to their highest levels.”

Brearley Khan focused on the nuances of negative behavior among the girls after noticing, “Sometimes when students come to me with a problem regarding peer relationships, there is difficulty in differentiating between annoyance, rudeness, mean behavior, and bullying.”

The goal of her session was to help the girls differentiate between these behaviors and gain skills on how to cope. They spent some time defining these terms and then analyzing hypothetical scenarios to identify which behavior best fit.

Brearley noticed a trend, “If there is one situation that all students could resonate with it was, not surprisingly, annoyance! While it was very easy to identify annoying behavior, it was a little more difficult to figure out how to cope with it. I encouraged students to problem solve for themselves when dealing with annoyance, rather than bringing it to the attention of a wider audience, noting that such commenting could lead to feelings of embarrassment or shame.”

She added, “I was so impressed with the students' ability to take risks and talk openly about some difficult topics. There were times when some students couldn't agree on how to label a behavior, yet they were so open to hearing each other's views and experiences. This allowed time for a deeper exploration of not only how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can evolve and change quickly, but also how perceptions of behavior can vary widely. It is my hope that such conversations can lead to a greater level of empathy among classmates.”

Learn more about our SEL program here

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Located in Austin, Texas, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private co-ed elementary, middle and high school for grades K-12. Students benefit from dedicated faculty, a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.