• Alicia Tang

SEL: Opportunity Block 2.0?

Updated: Mar 25

Cover photo credit: Kieran McGuire

For many, the term “Social Emotional Learning” (SEL) remains shrouded in mystery. Students are relatively unaware of the Social Emotional Learning initiative and its operating objectives within the Greenwich High School community as opposed to the debut of Opportunity Block two years prior.

The coronavirus has undoubtedly brought each citizen of the Greenwich High School community a fair share of trials and tribulations. The newly implemented SEL block at the end of the day strives to empower the student population in combating these inner and external struggles.

Activities SEL offers entail “free-form journaling, … neuroscience lessons behind mindset” and even watching “iconic music videos.” Unlike in a traditional classroom, the curriculum is comparatively more fluid and, notably, optional.

It seems as if most teachers are more passive in regards to SEL instruction, and reasonably so. At the end of a long, grueling school day, some individuals may not want to lead another instructional activity. Thus, many students seize the opportunity to scroll down their social media feeds, finish the remaining assignments of the day or whatever else they please.

For certain sophomores, SEL is synonymous with Opportunity Block, a program that was implemented in recent years and SEL’s predecessor.

“We don’t really do homework,” sophomore Mei said.

Her friend Yurika chimed in saying, “Teachers don’t do anything—it’s basically OB.”

Meanwhile, the upperclassmen seem to be more or less indifferent regarding the program, citing either little to no enforcement from teachers or early dismissal.

However, for freshmen, such as Jireh Membreno Duarte, it is a breath of fresh air at the end of a mentally taxing day.

“I can tell what I feel. I don't really say it to anyone,” Duarte said about the journaling exercises. For her, these sessions are an outlet for her everyday emotions and thoughts. Her catharsis resides in the privacy of her entries.

An interview with the program administrator of SEL, Ms. Kyaiera Mistretta, reveals a more cogent purpose behind the implementation of this program.

SEL was implemented due to a district-wide mandate reinforced by our superintendent, Dr. Toni Jones. But, perhaps a more compelling purpose, is that “everyone is under more stress right now than ever before, and one way to deal with it is through connection with the community,” Mistretta said.

Some students, who seek some form of credit upon completion, may be hesitant to engage in the SEL activities, but Mistretta reiterated that “this is for you.” In an avid attempt to reduce stress, the SEL program administrator insists that partaking is purely for your own benefit, and there is absolutely no pressure for you to participate.

Mistretta observed that it is considerably more difficult for freshmen to get acclimated to this socially unaccommodating environment. At a time in which fostering friendships and connections with others is nearly impossible, SEL endeavors to augment communication in the presence of these hurdles.

So, it seems as if SEL has indeed achieved its goal, or at least for their primary demographic, the freshman class.

Mistretta has high ambitions for her program, aspiring for it to gain momentum and become the norm for future years.

As of now, administrators hope to sustain SEL programming for many years to come, helping students recalibrate their minds when they need it most.

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