Charlton School hopes to be a model of emotional learning

As educators continue to focus on student mental health, one school is offering its expertise.

Charlton School was founded in 1895 as a home for homeless young people. Since then, the girls’ school has grown to specialize in education around issues such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.

“We really provide a space where kids feel comfortable, they feel like they can talk about difficult things,” said Sarah McCabe, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator.

All students are required to take a course focused on social-emotional learning (SEL), which leads to self-regulation skills and strategies.

“So when I started taking this course, we learned a lot about a lot of key things that ‘normal people’ are supposed to know. But it’s never that simple,” said Charlton student Sophia. School.

Administrators introduced the SEL course during the pandemic, although planning has been underway for some time. They credit him with keeping Charlton students focused and able to deal with the changing world around them.

“They need to understand how to deal with their anxiety, how to deal with their stress and not just someone telling them, ‘You have to do it differently, you have to do it better,’ but specifically saying, ‘Here’s a strategy. Here’s a tool. Here’s a skill you can use when you feel that way,” said Tina Crego, the school’s director of education.

As more traditional high schools begin to deal with students suffering during the pandemic, educators at Charlton hope this will serve as a resource. They believe it’s the only high school in the area to offer an SEL class.

“These are things that you can really work on in the public school setting, if people really teach it explicitly and take the time to incorporate it into what they do. So kids can learn these skills in addition to algebra and multiplication,” Crego said.

Charlton students regularly keep journals and have group discussions about how they feel. It’s the little things that go a long way.

“It helps me now, as if I could regulate myself. I can figure things out without starting to panic,” Sophia said.

Before this year, Sophia was in a public high school and she thinks this kind of approach would have helped her earlier.

“I hope other schools can understand this message and start doing these classes because they are nothing but beneficial,” she said.