Web Exclusive: Social emotional learning taught at Arkansas school

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Springdale School District is teaching students how to better manage their emotions and behaviors.

It’s called conscious discipline, and even administrators are noticing the impact it’s having on student behavior and their reactions.

Afton Schleiff is an instructional facilitator and former English teacher pioneering the program.

“It really helped empower students, teachers and people to take ownership of their feelings and know that these are manageable feelings. I can get through whatever I’m feeling, whatever problem I’m dealing with,” she said.

Shleiff describes conscious discipline as making feelings mentionable so that they’re manageable.

The practice teaches adults to stay calm enough and see student misbehavior as a signal to teach.

One skill, for example, is composure.

Schleiff describes, “I could stop, take a deep breath, and then access my brilliance and help that student get back on track in a way that doesn’t judge…in a way that I don’t lose emotional control.”

Assistant Principal Karen Johnson says its not just a philosophy, but it’s working.

“It is very needed. Social emotional learning is a need in our district and with our students,” she said. “Students who have had that conscious discipline training, when they come to me you can see they are already trying to use those tools and strategies. For example, they will say things like, ‘can I just take a minute to breathe?’ and then we start talking.”

The teaching of conscious discipline has been added to every advisory class, so every student has the opportunity to learn these skills..

“The coolest thing I’ve seen is now they’re finding value in it, and they are now trying to figure out how can I be apart of teaching this?” Johnson explains.

It also promotes school as a family atmosphere.

“A family is one of love and support. If there’s a problem, we’re not going to kick you out. We’re going to support you know that and mistakes are okay, and we’re going to learn a new way to approach whatever the situation or problem is” Shleiff said.

The long-term goal is for every student and teacher to learn these skills.

Schleiff has been requested to visit different schools in the district to expand the program.


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