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The whole child approach to education at Catlin Gabel
Posted 01/07/2019 01:30PM


Capitalizing on strengths, identifying areas for growth

Notes on the whole child approach to education, Part Three

By Dawn Isaacs

Catlin Gabel Head of Beginning and Lower School

November 30, 2018


As I sat in on Parent/Teacher conferences recently, I was struck by how well our teachers know, with careful detail, their students’ academic strengths and needs. However, their knowledge does not begin nor end with each child's cognitive skills. Rather, our teachers work to develop strong relationships with each child and an understanding of the whole child—their physical, social-emotional, and intellectual selves. This full understanding helps teachers guide students in capitalizing on their strengths and identifying areas for growth.

As we work to help each child thrive, we imbed Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into our practice and use the CASEL framework (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) to guide our work. This framework outlines five SEL competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. By intentionally fostering these competencies, we develop the following outcomes:  


  • Recognizing one's emotions and thoughts and how they influence behavior
  • Assessing one's strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a "growth mindset"


  • Regulating one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations
  • Managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself
  • Setting and working toward goals 

Social Awareness:

  • Empathizing with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  • Understanding social and ethical norms for behavior

Relationship Skills:

  • Establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups
  • Communicating clearly, listening well, cooperating with others, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed

Responsible Decision Making:

  • Making constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms
  • Evaluating consequences of various actions, with a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others
An independent preschool through 12th grade day school in Portland, Oregon
8825 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, Oregon 97225 |
503-297-1894 |

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