Kinus HaMechanchim to Dwell on Social Emotional Learning

The 21st Kinus HaMechanchim taking place Monday and Tuesday 18 and 19 Menachem Av 2082, August 15th and 16th at the ARMON Hotel in Stamford, CT will dwell on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as one of its major themes.

The 21st Kinus HaMechanchim (Monday and Tuesday 18 and 19 Menachem Av 2082, August 15th and 16th  at the ARMON Hotel in Stamford CT)to dwell on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as one of its major themes. During repeated meetings of the Vaad HaKinus the need for greater emphasis on the development of middos tovos was seen as the call of the hour. The pandemic has had an impact upon the behavior of children in and out of school. “This is something that cannot just be a presentation but it must be followed up with serious programming in schools throughout the year” said Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, dean of Cheder Menachem of Los Angeles.

What is Social and Emotional Learning:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the processes 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.

The Merkos Chinuch Office will undertake the creation of a complete SEL (middos tovos) program which will be introduced at the Kinus and followed up throughout the year.

SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful; social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student; and many different risky and undesirable behaviors can be prevented or reduced when multi-year, integrated efforts develop students’ social and emotional skills.

This is best done through effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom, and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation, and evaluation Effective SEL programming begins in preschool and continues through high school.

The Merkos program, based upon SEL training developed at Yale University is being adapted for the use in mosdos chinuch with Torah values. The process is classic SEL but the program will be infused with Torah ideas and words of Chazal by Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried, the renowned psychologist.  “The child will learn how develop his middos from Torah sources rather that from Western culture” said Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, director of the Merkos Chinuch Office, who is spearheading the project.

               SEL training involves five integrated competencies:

Research has identified five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies. The definitions of the five competency clusters for students are:

● Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.

 ● Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.

● Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

● Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.

● Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

All of these will be developed as part of the Merkos SEL program, starting with the Kinus HaMechanchim in August.

What needs to be done:

● Introduce SEL programming ideas to mechanchim and administrators at the Kinus and get “buy-in” of principals and teachers to implement SEL programs in their schools and classrooms.

● Develop well-designed classroom-based programs that systematically promote students’ social and emotional competence, provide opportunities for practice, and offer multi-year programming.

● Deliver high-quality training and other implementation supports, including initial training and ongoing support to ensure sound implementation.

Rabbi Levi Feldman a noted mechanech at Oholei Torah, has been chosen to direct and administer the Merkos SEL program and is working with Dr. Fried to bring it to mosdos chinuch in the fall. The Chinuch Office is embarking upon a special fund-raising effort to make the yearlong program possible.

The 21st annual Kinus HaMechanchim will be held IY”H on Monday and Tuesday 18 and 19 Menachem Av 2082, August 15th and 16th  at the ARMON Hotel in Stamford CT.

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