Bringing the Toolbox Home

Bringing the Toolbox Home

2nd grader holding up a card that says "confused."

If you visit the MTS campus, you’ll likely see students and teachers bustling between classrooms or engrossed in vigorous academic instruction. Although our unique departmentalized structure leaves no two daily schedules looking alike, all Lower School students at MTS begin their morning the same way. Prior to first period, teachers start every day with an explicit focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) – a program designed to allow children and adults to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy, and establish and maintain positive relationships. From Kindergarten classrooms, all the way to fifth grade, Social and Emotional Learning is especially highlighted during daily Morning Meetings, a practice born out of Responsive Classroom. While the actual content of the morning meeting varies from day to day, our goal is always the same – for students to leave feeling grounded and armed with tools to tackle whatever challenges might come their way. 

Head of Lower School holding up a sign that says "lonely."

During Morning Meetings, Lower School students spend daily homeroom time playing games and sharing with one another. The SEL approach helps establish a routine, set expectations, build a sense of community, practice life skills, and hold meaningful conversations. Students are given opportunities to build their sense of belonging, practice reflection, think more deeply about themselves and connect with one another through sharing and team-building games. Additionally, teachers have the chance to create and maintain positive relationships with each student on an individual and emotional level prior to academic instruction.  

Paired with Responsive Classroom, teachers and students regularly utilize the twelve self-regulation tools from Toolbox, as part of their daily practice. The Toolbox program provides practical resilience skills for children. Beginning in Kindergarten, students learn and make use of tools that live within us. For example, the “Breathing Tool” helps students draw upon their ability to self-regulate and practice empathy, while the “Taking Time” tool helps students resolve conflict, and thus maintain positive relationships. Through modeling these Toolbox behaviors, teachers support and reinforce students' use of the Tools–– which can continue into students’ lives outside of school.

Parent volunteers laughing with 2nd graders in SEL class.

Parents are critical partners in helping their children further develop these social and emotional skills at home. As educators, we suggest that parents Know, Model, and Encourage these skills:

  • Know
    • Be aware of and understand the names of Tools and how they are used
    • Know positive language to encourage learning and perseverance
  • Model
    • Utilize the tools yourself (e.g., “I’m feeling frustrated right now. I can use my Breathing Tool. Inhale. Exhale.”)
  • Encourage
    • Support other family members in utilizing the tools
    • Reinforce the practices (e.g., “I need you to use your Patience Tool right now while we wait in line.”)
    • Prompt your child to use Tools by asking, “What tool could help you right now?”

We encourage you to reach out to your child’s homeroom teacher for more information and suggestions. Have fun playing in the toolbox!

Rachael Olmanson and Talia Rhodes, Lower School Teachers

Rachael Olmanson and Talia Rhodes, 2nd grade homeroom, humanities teachers & SEL experts at MTS

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