Dodd Middle School students are learning more than reading, writing and arithmetic. They are learning how 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. It’s all part of the school’s social and emotional learning curriculum called the Youth Empowerment Seminar, or YES, which offers students practical tools for a healthy body, mind and lifestyle.
The hallways at Dodd Middle School hummed with youthful energy as students rushed to get to their homeroom by the 8 a.m. bell one morning last month. But a sea of calm soon replaced the frenetic energy when teacher Juan Mosquera led the student body in the morning’s mindfulness practice. His soothing voice came over the loud speaker. “Center yourself, stay focused,” he said. “How are you feeling today? Are you in the red zone and angry? Are you in the blue zone and down or are you feeling centered and calm, in the green zone?” he asked. A series of targeted breathing techniques followed and then questions aimed at getting students to reach for their full academic potential. “Set an intention for yourself,” he urged. “How will you be your best? What do you hope to accomplish today?”
YES was incorporated into the health program at Dodd during the 2014-2015 school year. The curriculum has three modules: healthy body, healthy mind and healthy lifestyle.
“Last year we had some students who were not interested. ‘Say no to YES,’ was their slogan,” Johane Lígondé, principal of Dodd Middle School joked, “but most students have seen how it helps them and they practice the breathing exercises to reduce stress, anger and anxiety,” she said. “They are learning how to better articulate and control their feelings.”