Lower School Student Support
At San Domenico, we strive to empower students and facilitate personal growth. To do so, we support each student uniquely and holistically. Our multi-faceted approach to student support provides each student with the tools to take educated risks, be mindful, and know when to ask for help.
Learning Resource Center
At the elementary school level, children are developing foundational academic skills that will serve them throughout their lifetime. Our Learning Specialist works closely with teaching teams to regularly monitor student growth in language, math and fine motor skills so that students who may need support are identified early and provided with intervention when it will be most effective. The Learning Specialist administers student screenings, provides small group remediation (in reading, spelling and writing) and ensures the provision of classroom accommodations. Referrals are also made to outside specialists when further testing or specialized intervention is recommended. It is our goal to partner with families and so that the students’ academic and social emotional needs are always at the forefront. Regular communication and collaborative team meetings help to develop plans for success as a student progresses through the grades. Click here for more information.
In order to qualify for accommodations, a qualifying and current evaluation with a diagnosis must be submitted and approved at each school level.
The social and emotional well-being of our students underscores our mission and is paramount to healthy student development. The Lower School Counselor works closely with faculty and staff, supporting the classroom teachers and administrators in maintaining the social and emotional well-being of all lower school students. The Counselor’s role is not to provide formal psychotherapy to students. Rather, the Counselor is actively involved in student life to enhance the students’ understanding of self-expression and self-awareness through classroom discussions, small group interactions, and one-on-one support. The Counselor meets with parents for consultation and parent education, facilitates grade level and parent education coffees, facilitates “Counselor Chats” and teaches Mindfulness lessons to students in grades K-5, oversees the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs and approaches used in the Lower School, and teaches 5th grade Family Life classes. The counselor also co-facilitates the Human Sexuality classes in Middle School, as well as the 8th grade Guidance Class. When needed, the Counselor makes referrals for families to outside specialists for additional support, testing or specialized intervention. Working closely with the LS Director and Learning Specialist, the Counselor fosters a student experience infused with inclusion, inquiry, mindfulness, and care.
Student Support Team
Each tenet of student support at San Domenico is comprehensive and essential, and their success lies in the consistent communication of our Student Support Team. There is always a bigger picture to see, and every week, this group meets to ensure that picture is clear. This team consists of the Director of the Lower School, the Learning Specialist, the School Counselor, and on an as-needed basis, the Grade Level teachers and Specialists. Each participant brings the week’s experiences, questions, and concerns to the group, soliciting advice and creating solutions that support students at every grade level. Meet the Student Support & Wellness Team.
Social and Emotional Learning
A hallmark of San Domenico is our purposeful focus on students' character development, both inside and outside of the classroom, through programs, approaches and activities that support social and emotional learning (SEL) at every grade level. Social and emotional learning or “SEL” is the process of teaching the skills to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations effectively. Research shows that providing students with formal SEL raises student test scores, reduces the effects of peer pressure and bullying, and promotes feelings of well-being and resiliency. From the very first days of school, and throughout the school year, our students actively participate in many social-emotional learning opportunities. All of these programs and approaches complement each other, reinforcing fundamental and foundational skills our students need as they get older. Importantly, they support our School’s Social Vision Statement: “We are a community of belonging where students, staff and families are dedicated to inclusion and respect for all.”
Lower School Social Emotional Learning (SEL) includes these approaches and programs:
The Lower School incorporates the Responsive Classroom approach into everything that we do. Responsive Classroom is a research and evidenced-based approach to elementary education that began in 1981, which leads to greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate. Responsive Classroom consists of a set of practices that build academic and social-emotional competencies, and that can be used along with many other programs. These practices help educators develop and enhance competencies in three key domains - each of which enables and enriches the others: Engaging Academics (Teachers create learning tasks that are active, interactive, appropriately challenging, purposeful, and connected to students' interests); Positive Community (Teachers nurture a sense of belonging, significances, and emotional safety so that students feel comfortable taking risks and working with a variety of peers); Effective Management (Teachers create a calm, orderly environment that promotes autonomy and allows students to focus on learning).
Responsive Classroom beautifully complements our four Dominican pillars, as well as our other SEL programs. Responsive Classroom allows for consistency and quality at every grade level: all of our classrooms have a “Morning Meeting,” a “Closing Meeting,” teachers all use the language of “Reinforcing, Reminding and Redirecting,” as well as a chime that gently brings students to attention, and they incorporate in-class supports such as “Take-a-Break.” For more information, visit the Responsive Classroom website: www.responsiveclassroom.org.
The Second Step curriculum ranks among the most highly respected and effective SEL programs used in schools today. Students receive Second Step instruction throughout the year in the Lower School, grades K-5. (In Middle School, formal Second Step instruction continues in Sixth and Seventh grades; in Eighth grade, students participate in “Guidance” class, facilitated by the counselors and designed to discuss many of the same topics in developmentally relevant ways). Each grade level of Second Step is divided into units to teach skills for: Learning, Empathy, Emotional Management and Problem Solving. Research shows that students who learn to self-regulate are better able to participate and learn in class; students who learn to feel empathy for others are better prepared to manage their own strong emotions and solve interpersonal problems; and students who learn proactive strategies to self-regulate and problem solve are less likely to engage in impulsive behavior. They are also more likely to have good relationships with peers, as well as to make good, resourceful choices. Families at all grade levels receive a welcome letter from their respective grade level Second Step teacher, including the registration code you will need to go online and make use of the wonderful resources available at www.secondstep.org. This program is most successful with parent participation and follow up at home!
Our Lower School staff incorporate mindfulness lessons each day into the classroom and during weekly assemblies, including the use of "mindful moments" and listening to a "singing bowl" to learn to focus our awareness and attention. The Counselor provides eight weeks of formal instruction in mindfulness to each grade level during the year, using the Mindful Schools curriculum: the lessons teach students about what Mindfulness is, how to put on a "mindful body," take "mindful breaths,"and many other simple and powerful strategies for greater focus and awareness. We annually host a Mindfulness Parent Coffee for families. Recent research and findings show that teaching young people about mindfulness, and incorporating it into their school day, can bring many benefits, including: Increased Attention Span (creating more focus and higher academic achievement); Improved Impulse Control (helping children self regulate, making classroom management easier, increasing teacher time); Reduced Stress (leading to happier and healthier children and teachers); Build Empathy & Community (leading to a happier and more inclusive school community). Mindfulness taught in the younger grades provides students with tools of well-being that they can take with them to Middle School and beyond. For more information about this topic and the curriculum we use, join us for the Parent Coffee and visit the Mindful Schools’ website: mindfulschools.org.
Since 2012, San Domenico has partnered with No Bully to bring additional tools for supporting students in developing healthy relationships, and for intervening when challenges arise. This evidence-based approach leverages the empathy and kindness inherent in all of us. The No Bully System® is a step-by-step process and set of interventions to prevent and stop bullying and cyberbullying in school and after-school programs. It guides school leaders, teachers and staff through a series of interventions for responding to bullying and harassment, depending on the severity of the incident. When severe or persistent bullying occurs, teachers facilitate Solution Teams, where the target’s peer group and the bully come together to stop the bullying. For more information, click here.