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Expanding SEL Program Makes Positive Impact On Lausanne Students

After alumni Cameron Kinley '17 snagged his first college interception as starting cornerback for the Naval Academy football team, the former Lynx and current Senior Class President of his college sent a text to Lausanne's Director of Social and Emotional Learning, Greg Graber, that said: "Mr. Graber! I had my first collegiate interception. I was able to stay calm and composed throughout the whole game. I owe a lot of that to you. I used the breathing technique from your book before the game, at half time, and many times before I took the field. Thank you."

"It was such a pleasant surprise to receive a text from Cameron," said Graber. "His performance is one of many examples of how social and emotional intelligence can enhance our performances in virtually any domain."

Experiences like Cameron's showcase the positive impact social and emotional learning can have on students. That's also why Lausanne decided to expand the program, developing new educational opportunities school-wide.

This school year, Graber will be assessing each academic division and department's needs regarding what social and emotional support programs will boost students' intellectual abilities, social skills, and overall well-being.

In Lower School, the SEL Director has visited some classes and led students in "mindful moments," which teach self-awareness and self-management skills. His time in the Middle School has included lessons on social awareness and relationship building skills. Upper School sessions have included him leading Juniors and Seniors in an IB SEL mentoring group with Lower and Middle School students. He has also taught mental performance tips to Upper School Students for standardizing testing, cognitive skills training with our varsity athletics teams and co-sponsors a mental toughness club.

"I am thrilled that Lausanne is forward-thinking enough to understand the benefits of a robust, comprehensive K-12 SEL program," said Graber. "It is relatively new in this region and some have misconceptions about what it is and what it isn't. Basically, we are teaching our students competencies of SEL: self-awareness, social awareness, relationship building, decision making and self-management. These skills will enable our students to succeed in school and life in general." 

As COVID-19 has eliminated the use of test scores for this current application cycle, colleges and universities are refocusing their attention on soft skills- like emotional intelligence, executive functioning, and attributes that allow students to interact harmoniously with others. 

For years, colleges and universities have placed a great deal of emphasis on a student's ability to understand and contribute to diversity, efforts in community building, resilience in overcoming adversity, in addition to evaluating a student's character and impact on others. But now, without testing, that focus is heightened.

Lausanne graduate Justine Okerson '01, who has served in admissions administration positions at elite universities such as Duke and William and Mary, also cites the need for students to possess strong SEL skills, saying, "Emotional Intelligence is more important now than ever in selective college admission and beyond as Lausanne alumni move forward into either career or graduate school."

As the SEL program continues to build over the next several years, different components will be implemented as needed, like the recently added self-care sessions to combat teacher burnout. 

"It is our goal for these programs to add value to the lives of every constituent of our Lausanne community," said Graber. "We are fortunate to have such a strong and dedicated group of experts on our Social and Emotional Learning Advisory Council to give us feedback on what current trends we need to address within these programs." 

The advisory council members are Dr. Danielle Jackson, Social Worker; Dr. Hugh Moore, Psychologist; Dr. Chandra Murphy, Psychologist and Owner of Mindful in Memphis; Dr. Patrice Reed, Pediatrician; Dr. Colby Taylor, Psychologist and professor at Christian Brothers University; and psychiatrist Dr. Lucas Trautman.  

 "Lausanne has a staunch commitment to continual improvement," said Headmaster Stuart McCathie. "We simply want to serve our students better tomorrow than we do today, and the development of a school-wide SEL initiative is integral to that improvement."

Posted by Shayne Dotson at 1:24 PM