Social-Emotional Learning

At Mitchell School we actively teach social-emotional skills through formal classroom lessons and also through daily interactions with one another in less formal settings. We use both the Responsive Classroom model and Second Step.

Please support our work by reviewing with your child the Second Step HomeLinks that occasionally come home. The Home Links reinforce your child's learning and also let you know what we're teaching in class.  I felt crestfallen when some students told me, "My parents just throw those away. It's not real homework -- like math or spelling."  I would argue that it is even more important than math or spelling. The outcomes for children and adults who have strong social-emotional skills are more promising than for children and adults who lack those skills.

Why Social Emotional Learning?


Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.1
Often taught in the classroom, social-emotional learning gives tomorrow’s workforce the tools for success, while educators find it contributing to a positive school climate and increased academic success. Beyond immediate outcomes in the classroom, SEL prepares employees to solve problems, manage emotions, and communicate.

1 “What is SEL?” CASEL,, (June 19, 2017)

Visit from The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness

Renee St. Laurent, an educator from The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness, is visiting each classroom in grades 1, 2 and 3 at Mitchell School this week. The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness is dedicated to the purpose that no person with any kind of disability will ever again experience the profound isolation in life and anonymity at death of Jeremiah Cromwell.  The mission of The Cromwell Center is to promote safe, respectful and inclusive schools and communities.

"We don't focus on specific disabilities or lead 'show and tell' or simulations. Instead, we change attitudes. At first, our hands-on activities may seem to have little to do with disabilities. Through questioning, facilitation, and interaction, we help people discover on their own -- and from each other -- positive attitudes, understanding and respect of differences.  Unlike other programs that focus primarily on physical challenges, The Cromwell Center's programs address all disabilities -- learning, behavioral, emotional, developmental, and physical"  (Cromwell Center: About Us  )

The Power of Habit

Welcome back to school. Transition times like these are great opportunities to help our children (and ourselves!) form or change habits.

Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit in 2012 and it became a national best seller.  Duhigg comments,"At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work."

What better time than a back-to-school transition to bring awareness to the the habits we're teaching our children so that they can grow into healthy, self-directed, and transformative young people.

Take a moment to learn from Charles Duhigg at TEDx Teachers College

Getting ready for the 2017-2018 school year

The Mitchell Sandpipers
We would like to welcome back students and families to what will surely be an exciting year ahead. We'd also like to extend an extra warm welcome to our youngest new students and their families.

For the parents and caregivers for incoming Kindergarten students Helping Kindergartners succeed - things you can do is a packet that I put together that highlights some of the most effective ways you can help your student thrive in school.

FAQ's about Kindergarten is the handout that we distributed at the spring Kindergarten registration dates. Now would be a good time to review the information and gradually share relevant parts with your child. The more your child knows about what to expect coming into Kindergarten, the smoother the transition will be.

And for all of our Mitchell School parents and students, here is recent article from The New York Times 6 Things Parents Should Know About Sending Kids Back to School.  And below you'll find an oldie-but-goodie collection of resources from Edutopia.  I encourage you to check out their Back to School Basics videos. They are quite good!

Back-to-School Resources for Parents

Find resources to help children begin school with a positive mindset, support their transition into a new school year, and prepare them for fall learning.
Resources by Topic:

Back-to-School Advice and Checklists

Easing the Back-to-School Transition

Tech Tips for a New School Year

For more tips and guidance about managing media and technology use, check out these other posts from Edutopia:

Gearing Up for Fall Learning

For more parent strategies around homework, take a look at these other blog posts from Edutopia:

The Power of Parental Involvement

More on building resilience in children

The Seven C's of Resiliency.

Bottom Line #1:  Young people live up or down to expectations we set for them. They need adults who believe in them unconditionally and hold them to the high expectations of being compassionate, generous, and creative.

This short video clip will give you a good understanding of how all of us can build resilience in children. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, is a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at The Children'sHospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Link to website   Fostering Resilience - Kenneth Ginsburg

Healthy Children - Building Resilience  article below from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Building Resilience in Children

​The world can be a frightening place. As a parent, I am constantly aware of choices that I make to minimize my perception of fear and uncertainty. Death, illness, divorce, crime, war, child abductions, tsunamis, and terrorism — both here and abroad — have defined an evolving landscape for raising our families. How do we manage to parent from a place of love and understanding, not fear and paranoia?
It’s not possible to protect our children from the ups and downs of life. Raising resilient children, however, is possible and can provide them with the tools they need to respond to the challenges of adolescence and young adulthood and to navigate successfully in adulthood. Despite our best efforts, we cannot prevent adversity and daily stress; but we can learn to be more resilient by changing how we think about challenges and adversities.
Today’s families, especially our children, are under tremendous stress with the potential to damage both physical health and psychological well-being.
The stress comes from families who are always on the go, who are overscheduled with extracurricular activities, and ever-present peer pressure. In the teen years, the anxiety and pressure are related to getting into “the” college.
In today’s environment, children and teens need to develop strengths, acquire skills to cope, recover from hardships, and be prepared for future challenges. They need to be resilient in order to succeed in life.
That is why Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., MS Ed, FAAP, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has joined forces with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to author A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings. The new book provides a dynamic resource to help parents and caregivers build resilience in children, teens, and young adults.
Dr. Ginsburg has identified seven “C”s of resilience, recognizing that “resilience isn’t a simple, one-part entity.” Parents can use these guidelines to help their children recognize their abilities and inner resources.


Competence describes the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively. We can help the development of competence by:
  • Helping children focus on individual strengths
  • Focusing any identified mistakes on specific incidents
  • Empowering children to make decisions
  • Being careful that your desire to protect your child doesn’t mistakenly send a message that you don’t think he or she is competent to handle things
  • Recognizing the competencies of siblings individually and avoiding comparisons


A child’s belief in his own abilities is derived from competence. Build confidence by:
  • Focusing on the best in each child so that he or she can see that, as well
  • Clearly expressing the best qualities, such as fairness, integrity, persistence, and kindness
  • Recognizing when he or she has done well
  • Praising honestly about specific achievements; not diffusing praise that may lack authenticity
  • Not pushing the child to take on more than he or she can realistically handle


Developing close ties to family and community creates a solid sense of security that helps lead to strong values and prevents alternative destructive paths to love and attention. You can help your child connect with others by:
  • Building a sense of physical safety and emotional security within your home
  • Allowing the expression of all emotions, so that kids will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times
  • Addressing conflict openly in the family to resolve problems
  • Creating a common area where the family can share time (not necessarily TV time)
  • Fostering healthy relationships that will reinforce positive messages


Children need to develop a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong and to demonstrate a caring attitude toward others. To strengthen your child’s character, start by:
  • Demonstrating how behaviors affect others
  • Helping your child recognize himself or herself as a caring person
  • Demonstrating the importance of community
  • Encouraging the development of spirituality
  • Avoiding racist or hateful statements or stereotypes


Children need to realize that the world is a better place because they are in it. Understanding the importance of personal contribution can serve as a source of purpose and motivation. Teach your children how to contribute by:
  • Communicating to children that many people in the world do not have what they need
  • Stressing the importance of serving others by modeling generosity
  • Creating opportunities for each child to contribute in some specific way


Learning to cope effectively with stress will help your child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. Positive coping lessons include:
  • Modeling positive coping strategies on a consistent basis
  • Guiding your child to develop positive and effective coping strategies
  • Realizing that telling him or her to stop the negative behavior will not be effective
  • Understanding that many risky behaviors are attempts to alleviate the stress and pain in kids’ daily lives
  • Not condemning your child for negative behaviors and, potentially, increasing his or her sense of shame


Children who realize that they can control the outcomes of their decisions are more likely to realize that they have the ability to bounce back. Your child’s understanding that he or she can make a difference further promotes competence and confidence. You can try to empower your child by:
  • Helping your child to understand that life’s events are not purely random and that most things that happen are the result of another individual’s choices and actions
  • Learning that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling; using discipline to help your child to understand that his actions produce certain consequences
Dr. Ginsburg summarizes what we know for sure about the development of resilience in kids by the following:
  • Children need to know that there is an adult in their life who believes in them and loves them unconditionally.
  • Kids will live “up” or “down” to our expectations.
There is no simple answer to guarantee resilience in every situation. But we can challenge ourselves to help our children develop the ability to negotiate their own challenges and to be more resilient, more capable, and happier.

Overview of Stress

  • There will always be stress in our lives.
  • Stress is an important tool that can aid in our survival.
  • Our body’s reaction to stress is mediated through a complex interplay of sensory input—sights and sounds—as well as the brain and nervous system, hormones, and the body’s cells and organs.
  • Emotions play an important role in how we experience stress because the brain is the conductor of this system. The way we think about stress and what we choose to do about it can affect the impact of a stressful event.
This article was featured in Healthy Children Magazine. To view the full issue, click here.

Building resilience and the truth about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can last a lifetime but THEY DON'T HAVE TO! Relationships are central in promoting resilience and healing and reducing the negative impact of ACEs. For adults and caregivers to understand their own ACEs and then learn about ways to foster resilience in themselves and their children are key in moving beyond what the research is telling us.
Strengthening Families (link to: has a framework of five protective factors that promote optimal development and strong families. They are:
  • 1. Parental Resilience
  • 2. Social Connection
  • 3. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • 4. Concrete Supports in Time of Need, and
  • 5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children
For more information go to the ACES page of our Mitchell School Counseling website

Speak Up For Kids public education campaign

What would I tell my younger self?

Each day in May a prominent individual will speak to his or her younger self about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder.

These messages of hope and courage are worth watching.  Michael Phelps, Wayne Brady, Dan Harris, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Lena Dunham and many others.  Please check it out!  Or subscribe via social media and share their stories.

Speak Up For Kids - Child Mind Institute

Great local resources - Gateway to Maine Outside and Seacoast Kids Calendar

Gateway to Maine Outside encourages people to experience and appreciate the enjoyment, natural beauty, and health benefits of getting outside in Southern Maine.

Check out the events and resources at

Another resource the Seacoast Kids Calendar.  "Believe us, it’s not that there’s a lack of fun things to do on the seacoast—the challenge is finding them! If it’s happening anywhere from Ogunquit, Maine to Portsmouth, NH to Newburyport, MA and everywhere in between, you’ll hear about it right here."

And for weekend adventures, check out the Portland Kids Calendar 

April is the Month of the Military Child

As we celebrate the Month of the Military Child we offer personal thanks to each Armed Forces family. Starting with Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in 1986, the serving Secretary of Defense has designated each April as "The Month of the Military Child."  Frequent moves and extended family separation make military life especially challenging.  Please join us in acknowledging and honoring our military students and their experiences. 

Wednesday April 26th is Purple Up! for Military Kids Day at Mitchell School. 
 Wearing the color purple is a visible way to show support and thank military youth for their strength and 
sacrifices.  Why purple? Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is a combination of Army green, Marine red, and Coast Guard, Air Force, and Navy blue.

We shared a portion of the Reading Rainbow video A Day in the Life of a Military Family with students in their classrooms and military-connected students and some parents are sharing their experiences.

We made a bulletin board in the center of our school to honor and celebrate students from our military families.  We are helping our young military children discover their SPARC...  

Each of our military students will be signing their names next to the branch of service in which their parent(s) serve and placing pushpins on the many different states and countries they've lived.  We are proud of them!

The poem "The Dandelion – The Official Flower of the Military Child" is also posted on the bulletin board. We wanted to share it with you.

Don't forget....
Wednesday April 26th is PURPLE UP! Day at Mitchell School. Wear purple to show your support for military-connected youth.

For more information on supporting military families in Kittery schools, please go to:

Research on Social Emotional Learning in Elementary School

Current research from Penn State and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirms that we're on the right track.  Here at Mitchell School we use Second Step and Responsive Classroom which are both evidence-based Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs/approaches that are cited in this research. 

Social Emotional Learning in Elementary School

Preparation for Success

Infographic used for Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary Schools

Social emotional learning (SEL) programs can promote academic achievement and positive social behavior, and reduce conduct problems, substance abuse, and emotional distress.

The Issue
There is widespread evidence of successful, universal SEL programs and practices that can support social and emotional development in students during the elementary school years. Based on decades of research and evaluation in rigorous field trials, these approaches are now widely available to schools, along with teacher training and ongoing coaching to support high quality implementation.

Key Findings

  • SEL programs can promote academic achievement and healthy, positive behaviors.
  • SEL is critical to students success and shows a positive return on investment.
  • Effective programs address everything from individual student instruction to overall school climate.
  • They are also evidence-based, are improved by partnering with families, are culturally and linguistically sensitive, and include teacher training.

Schools should adopt effective SEL programs to ensure student success, and policymakers should create policies and guidelines that support SEL goals.
About the Pennsylvania State University and this Research Series
Founded in 1855, the Pennsylvania State University is a renowned public research university that educates students from around the world and collaborates with partners to share valuable knowledge that improves the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Pennsylvania State University is creating a series of briefs addressing the need for research, practice and policy on social and emotional learning. The series will cover how teachers, parents, schools and others can help support the social emotional learning of students.