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Social-Emotional Learning

by Bill Overton

The History

Since the inception of the Ohlone philosophy about 35 years ago, social-emotional learning (SEL) has been an integral part of the curriculum. Its foundation comes from the work of such people as (Howard?) Glasser and (Susanna?) Palomares. It was their desire to better meet the SE needs of children through activities done in the classroom. Their work served as our beginning models for implementing SEL at Ohlone.

Since that time, neuroscientists have acknowledged the value of SEL through their research. The fact that all or most of what we learn first passes through the parts of the brain that regulate our emotions is one supporting scientific conclusion. For the past 10-15 years, Ohlone staff members have been involved with current brain research, often specifically surrounding SEL-related information.


While implementation of SEL practices varies somewhat from classroom to classroom, every class includes some time given to meetings, usually at least once a day. These meetings serve as a medium for addressing proactively such concepts as empathy, self-advocacy, safety, communication skills, conflict resolution, and personal responsibility. Teachers access an array of resources for introducing such concepts.

In addition to this, teachers are encouraged to take the time necessary to debrief situations that occur at recess. Often, classrooms will meet as a whole to solve problems. Time spent in this manner allows students to better free their limbic systems to be able to address cognitive learning opportunities that follow. It is also not uncommon for individuals to be invited to a different classroom so that problems can be solved and lessons learned.


Being believers in the power of SEL and professionals as well, we continue to look for current research and strategies to better meet student needs in this area. For the last 15 years, we have worked with an international non-profit SEL organization called 6Seconds. They have served as mentors for us, increasing our repertoire of approaches and techniques; facilitated our retreats, helping with our own personal and professional growth; trained a number of staff members and parents in SE and leadership certification programs; and generally acted as consultants in this area. We have at times used their measures for evaluating school climate (Assessment of School Climate) and even individual student EQ's through the SEI-YV (Emotional Intelligence Assessment-Youth Version) assessment tool. They have given us an abundance of data and tools for reflection through the years.

Even with their support, we continue to look for resources that align with our belief system (core values) and practices. Project Cornerstone and their work with the 41 Developmental Assets, for example, might offer us an additional way to look at SEL.

The Ohlone Culture

While character education and SEL programs are a relatively new idea at many schools, they have been an integral part of our school culture for years. We don't embrace commercial programs or packages because of research that calls into question the longevity of the lessons learned and application to other settings. Rather, we seek to integrate SEL into all that we do. We do approach social bullying and other related concepts on at least a daily basis-and have for years. It is a part of our identity and has been embedded in our culture for a long period of time. Does that mean that our playground is bully-free? Absolutely not. But are teachers given the latitude and encouragement to address SE needs on an immediate basis, at times in conflict with other subjects? Yes. It is part of the Ohlone Way.

The Future?

Ohlone is continuing its partnership with 6Seconds and is now a 6Seconds "demonstration school". This means that other educational professionals can visit us and see what SEL can look like in a public school setting. In addition, parents and staff are continuing to be trained through 6Seconds programs, and some have been asked to present at conferences. We continue to provide parent education related to building SE competency at home as well as at school, and we are partnering with Project Cornerstone to explore the 41 Developmental Assets as another framework for SE development and health. Just as it was 35 years ago, social-emotional learning remains an integral part of the Ohlone school experience for students and families alike.

Social-Emotional Exit Skills

By the Ohlone teaching staff

Through our integrated approach to social-emotional learning, we strive to help our students develop the following skills and attributes during their time at Ohlone:

  • Willingness to embrace cultural diversity
  • Optimistic view of life; positive thinking
  • Resilience
  • Empathy & ability to see multiple perspectives
  • Collaboration & cooperation–ability to function in groups & to work with others
  • Self-awareness & desire to grow
  • Personal responsibility
  • Perseverance
  • Curiosity
  • Confidence
  • Enthusiasm
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Self-advocacy–having a voice
  • Appreciation of others and of self
  • Acceptance of self and of others
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to compromise
  • Self-control, self-regulation
  • Good decision-making skills & ability to make choices
  • Seeing mistakes as opportunities
  • Ability to take risks
  • Ability to make presentations
  • Self-confidence in academic areas
  • Ability to self-reflect
  • Social awareness–including awareness and control of physical presence
  • Awareness of support network and willingness to use it
  • Independent thought
  • Flexibility
  • Active listening
  • Ability to disagree respectfully
  • Consideration–tendency to think of others
  • Awareness of others & of self
  • Emotional literacy–ability to read social cues
  • Acceptance of others
  • Respect for others
  • Appreciation of others
  • Patience–with self and with others
  • Tenacity
  • Negotiation skills
  • Active participation in school and education
  • Passion for identified interests
  • Gratitude
  • Appreciation of the power of choice