Social + Emotional Learning

Why is it impossible to be "born with our personality"?


This week in Social and Emotional Learning we continued to explore how our brain makes us who we are. The main question was “Why is it IMPOSSIBLE for personality to be innate?”

The innate personality myth
Contrary to what is depicted in much popular culture and fiction - including Pixar's new movie "Soul" - babies are not born with an adult miniature brain! Babies are born with brains that are equipped to learn from experience. A second important fact is that we cannot change completely and forever. Our brains are also built for stability, which is why some things are so much easier to learn as a child and teenager than as an adult. Dr Dan Siegel's 5 minute video on the teen brain explains the changes in brain and personality that teenagers experience. 

What can and what cannot change in neurons and synapses? 
Our brains develop in an experience-dependent way. "Use it or lose it" is the key message for students who still have immense leeway to shape theirs! So although we are unlikely to have many new neurons added to our brain networks, and although these brain networks do become more stable and harder to change with myelination, what does change includes this: our neurons can grow or dissolve dendrites and synapses, whose signal strength and speed can also change greatly over the course of our lives. 

The general structure of the brain helps us understand how to manage ourselves more effectively. By using our forearm and hand as a model, we describe the "triune model" of the brain, i.e. the three parts and what each focuses on (body, feeling, thought). These three parts are interconnected and somewhat hierarchical: the brain's "roots", those that regulate our body, have the strongest influence on the "heart" and "surface" of our brain, those that regulate our feelings and thoughts. So if you want to learn more efficiently in class, start by taking great care of your body (sleep, exercise and eat well) and your relationships (take good care of your closest connections, because we are smarter when we are happy.)

The overall message is this: Your life shapes your brain. You still have significant possibility to shape it. It will become harder to do so over time.


Here is the Peardeck presentation shared with all secondary students this week.

Why does knowing how your Brain works matter?


Happy New Year everyone! We are kicking off the year with a foundational module in our Social and Emotional Learning curriculum: Neuroscience for Teens. You might be wondering how students benefit from learning about brains. After all, knowing how an eyeball works does not make one see more clearly! Why would knowing how our brain works help us function any better?

It turns out that knowing a few basics about how brains develop and function teaches us a lot about how we became who we are today, and how we might still change going forward. It teaches us to ask ourselves not “What is wrong with you?” but “What has been going on in your life?” It forces us to be more understanding and compassionate, of ourselves and others.


In our first session this week, we started with a strongly empowering message: “Remember that your brain, children and teens, is the most precious resource in the known Universe!” We corrected some popular beliefs, such as that brain development is entirely genetically determined, or the opposite view that brain plasticity is infinite and eternal. 


We ended with the recent study of Romanian orphans adopted into UK families in the 1990s. Students were surprised to hear that the severe early deprivation could lead to reduced brain size thirty years later - despite similar upbringings after 6 months of age. One of the 7th graders wrote:  “I did not know that a kid's brain could be smaller than another's (even with the same education!) as they get older"


Expect to be quizzed by your students at the dinner table! 


Here is the Peardeck presentation shared with all secondary students this week

ORT Speaker Series | SEL 

Watch our Speaker Series event which happened on DEC 09 at 05:00 P.M. featuring a conversation with our school's Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Catalyst, Victoria Dimitrakopoulos. 

About the event:

The school's leadership team joined Victoria in presenting the holistic approach LFSF takes to your students' Social and Emotional Development. In this highly engaging session, attended could experience the curriculum, participate in an interactive PearDeck journey (which we will circulate prior to the meeting) and have ample opportunity to ask questions and share ideas. 

About the Speaker:

Victoria was invited to found and lead the school's SEL program by drawing on a unique professional experience and personal trajectory. Just before joining the LFSF, she was leveraging visual, interactive content to bring the benefit of the latest neuroscience and psychology research in childhood development to parents, therapists, and students. Over a decade prior to that, she interviewed thousands of international leaders for C-level roles in global organisations - an experience that gives her a long-term perspective on the essential life skills for a successful career. Like your students, she is a world citizen and an alumna of the French educational system in North America. She wrapped up her University of Geneva Diplomas with a Stanford MBA, and has chosen the LFSF for both her children's education. 

Check out this video to know more about Victoria and her approach to SEL:


"Mrs Pacific," the Dove of Peace, landed in Pre-K today

"What do you do when two of you climb the slide, and both want to go first?" asks the teacher, showing a picture of the troubling situation to a group of some ten preschoolers spread out on the carpet in front of her. 

Some answers were on point: "You can say sorry" Others totally off: "If you are eating lunch, you are not fast enough to get to the slide first." 

Today, several four-year olds on Ashbury discovered Mrs Pacific. This white Dove of Peace joined Witch Grabouilla - who is getting everyone excited for Halloween. The two muppets, hailing from different worlds, will co-exist in teaching children the most essential Social and Emotional skills this year. 

It fosters knowledge, skills, and attitudes across the five areas of competence defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making 

Mrs Pacific is a Canadian Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum available in both English and French. It goes beyond the non-violent resolution of conflicts, and several teachers at the Lycée have been using it for several years. Its workshops are adapted to classes from PreK to 5th grade. Teachers find it particularly well adapted for Early Education, from preschool through first grade.

Having a methodical approach to SEL, particularly in a group of children who exhibit very few behavioral issues, enables the school to develop a very strong culture of collaboration. This is a climate where the qualities we wish to develop in our students - empathy, cooperation, self-management - can truly blossom.

Let's not forget to mention self-advocacy and critical thinking. When a child holding the muppet is asked to pass it to a friend, he responds "In two minutes!" The teacher counts "One... two!" The child promptly corrects her: "That was two seconds!" Nice try, prof. 


La colombe "Madame Pacifique" se pose aujourd'hui en Maternelle

"Que faites-vous si vous arrivez en meme temps au toboggan, et que vous voulez tous les deux y monter?" demande la maitresse en montrant une illustration de la situation à une dizaine d'élèves répartis sur le tapis devant elle.  

Certaines réponses venant de ce groupe de Moyenne Section sont pertinentes: "On dit 'Sorry!'" D'autres le sont moins: "Si tu déjeunes, tu ne pourras pas courir assez vite pour arriver premier au toboggan!" 

Aujourd'hui, quelques élèves de 4 ans ont rencontré pour la première fois Madame Pacifique sur le campus d'Ashbury. Madame Pacifique, une colombe blanche, s'ajoute à la Sorcière Grabouilla (en visite pour préparer Halloween.) Autant d'outils pour renforcer les apprentissages des compétences sociales et émotionnelles des enfants!

Madame Pacifique est un curriculum Canadien très complet, qui va au delà de la résolution non-violente des conflits. Le Lycée l'a adopté depuis plusieurs années. Ses ateliers s'échelonnent tout au long des années scolaires, de la Moyenne Section jusqu'au CM2. Les enseignants le trouvent particulièrement bien adapté au premier Cycle, de la Moyenne Section au CP. 

Avoir une approche systématique permet de construire une culture commune, qui renforce les qualités que l'on souhaite développer chez nos élèves, à savoir l'empathie, la coopération et la bonne gestion de soi.

Sans oublier le respect de soi et l'esprit critique! Quand un enfant, à qui l'on demande de partager la marionette, explique qu'il le fera "Dans deux minutes," la maîtresse compte "Un, deux!" et l'enfant, pas dupe, répond: "Deux minutes, ça c'était deux secondes!"