Select Page

Social-emotional Learning

Fostering Intrinsic Motivation

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the foundation of our academic approach. Through this process children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.*


* As defined by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

Lower School

From the very beginning, we utilize the Responsive Classroom model which supports SEL by:

  • Recognizing and valuing the individual in the classroom community 
  • Underscoring the responsibility students have to themselves and to the larger school community 
  • Allowing students to see themselves as having a valuable voice in decisions being made in the class 
  • Demonstrating ways for students to advocate appropriately for themselves 
  • Providing the tools for students to resolve social situations themselves 


At the core, a responsive classroom does not underestimate children, but respects how they learn and how they develop. This approach balances success with challenges or even “failures” by not doing for kids what they can do for themselves. Students are able to build independence through repeated exposure to different situations.


Students build their skills by:

Engaging in cooperative learning.

Classrooms are set up to enable independence and engagement in all elements of the school day. Everyone participates in learning.

Developing language and skills that allow them to advocate for themselves and others.

Children practice making their feelings and needs known to others in order to create a positive learning environment for all members of the community. 

Building the skills needed to be responsible members of the learning community.

We focus on skills that will help children develop an understanding of their role in the learning process as an individual and a group member.  

Gaining an understanding of emotions.

Children are taught all emotions are okay and they work to develop strategies to recognize them both within themselves and others. As they begin to recognize emotions, they work to develop strategies to help themselves and others respond to their emotions in a productive and empathetic way.

Through cooperative learning, assertiveness, responsibility, and empathy; children develop the skills needed to demonstrate self-control.

This allows them to fully engage in the learning process throughout their school years.

At Harley, we know genuine, deep learning and growth is rooted in intrinsic motivation and the ability to do for yourself. Students expand their learning to satisfy their own curiosity and drive rather than to complete work simply because it has been assigned. Because we allow students to actively engage in the messiness of learning and by engaging children so they drive their own learning and fuel the work of classmates, a stronger, happier community is created.

Middle School

SEL in Middle School can be seen in the drive of students who are inwardly motivated to explore and forward their own education. The attitude “You can go anywhere you want, there is no end line.” encourages students to pursue interests and try new ideas and activities while continuing to build their toolkit of strategies. 

We want our students to have a full palette, not to just define themselves as the “athlete,” “musician” or “theater kid”—everything is considered essential. Our students are provided with opportunities across the spectrum of human experience in the belief if you haven’t been exposed to things or had to grapple with things, you won’t be fully informed and not as well versed as a learner. 

There are no limitations forcing tweens to be “this or that”—at Harley, students are “this AND that.”

We reinforce student connections and support in many ways, including how we begin the day. For example, morning meetings follow a format called “Circle of Power and Respect.” This is a daily, whole-group gathering designed to build community. Using a format of greeting, sharing, activity, and daily news this is a friendly ritual to build social skills and trusting relationships that facilitate learning. 

In the Middle School, one indispensable way we support students is through establishing strong and caring relationships with them. Our main goal is for all students to feel a sense of belonging and to be physically and emotionally safe. When students feel connected, safe, and supported then optimal learning can occur. 

Upper School

As our students enter Upper School, they have been exposed to many ideas, challenges, and opportunities through comprehensive academic, extra-curricular, and social experiences.They are equipped with a strong sense of themselves as complete learners: where their strengths and challenges lie and how to leverage them, no matter the content or situation. These are the skills that will carry them to success in college and adulthood.

They deeply understand:

  • How to reflect, self-evaluate, and maintain a healthy life balance
  • Who they are as a person and how they treat people is as important as what they can do with their brains and their bodies.
  • How to wrestle and grapple with complex interconnected, systemic thinking
  • Conflict and obstacles are part of life and how not to be derailed by difficulties.
  • How to stand up and speak up for themselves, get help when they need it, and how to be a stand by-er instead of a bystander. 
  • There’s a responsibility to helping everybody’s day be better—that’s part of what a community means and there is no opting out.
  • There’s no shame in asking for help.


Students gain a strong sense of themselves as complete learners: where their strengths and challenges lie and how to leverage them, no matter the content or situation.


Come for a Visit

Learn more about what makes The Harley School experience unique.

The Harley School

1981 Clover Street
Rochester, NY 14618
(585) 442-1770

©2021 The Harley School