CA schools look to add 'social emotional learning' to curriculum

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- All students learn the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic. Add to that compassion.

Nowadays, more and more California schools are including social emotional learning in their curricula. Some districts are even including it on students' report cards.

"Draw a picture of a time when you saw compassion or when you had compassion for someone else," asked Pamela Schulting of her fifth grade class at Bret Harte elementary in San Francisco.

Once they put it in pictures, they discuss a time when they were empathetic toward another person.

"Compassion is kinda like empathy, to put yourself in another person's place, like as we say in our classroom, put yourself in another person's shoes," said student Leah Maes.

Every Monday at 2 p.m., students at Bret Harte Elementary spend an hour on social emotional learning. What they discuss here is applied in every situation at school and at home.

"If we give kids language to engage in conflict resolution, we feel like they are much better as a result in settings like recess and in the cafeteria," said Principal Jeremy Hilnski.

Studies have also shown that these kinds of programs help a child feel supported by their classmates and teachers. That sense of self-worth often translates into academic success.

"It also lowers things like truancy rates, lowers aggression," explained Vicki Zakrzewski with Greater Good Science Center.

Some school districts grade their students on their level of compassion and even gratitude.

Eight school districts in California, including San Francisco Unified, want the federal government to hold them accountable not only for their academic outcome but for their social and emotional teachings.

San Francisco Unified is still figuring out what factors will be used to measure their level of success.

In the meantime, students are already being affected by what they are learning in addition to math and reading. Student Harmony Stevens says, "I use it to be a better friend and also to know that I'm doing the right thing and it makes me feel good."
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