How can we integrate social-emotional learning and well-being throughout a classroom, school or school district? [with Sylvie Mazerolle]

**Article originally published in French.**

Learning to (re)connect with the group

Here’s a professional training workshop that’s different from what we’re used to seeing! No convoluted, practical-theoretical content, no ultra-structured powerpoint. It was an organic, human experience in which the material was not presented point by point, but directly integrated into the encounter and experienced by the participants and each other. On May 9, 2023, Sylvie Mazerolle gave a virtual workshop entitled: How to integrate social-emotional learning and well-being throughout a classroom, school or school district?


The workshop begins with a fairly standard presentation, but there’s that little something extra that makes it all worthwhile, and immerses us in the inclusive and caring approach promoted by Sylvie. By inviting the group to introduce themselves in the chat, including, if they wish: name, pronoun(s), town, and territory of the local aboriginal nation, the trainer offers a fair space to gender identity and aboriginal territorial recognition.

Then, again by invitation, we indicated how we felt in terms of participation. Obviously, this is a status that may change over the course of the meeting or session, but indicating your state of mind acts as an implicit contract with the person leading the discussion. Whatever my situation (whether I feel active, engaged or learning), the group will respect my chosen modalities of participation.

  • I feel active = I want to and feel comfortable participating in a large group.
  • I feel committed = I prefer to participate in small groups only
  • I feel like I’m learning = I’m not involved in the discussion, but I’m observing.

The effects are immediate… the fear of not being heard or, on the contrary, of being singled out disappears. A climate of trust is gradually established.

In virtual mode, it’s information that can be shared in chat, but in face-to-face mode, and especially in the classroom, we could imagine a physical tool that would inform the group in the same way. It’s an idea that makes me think of Tétra’aide, a playful work tool that facilitates cooperation and can be customized according to needs and contexts (speech management, sequence animation, mutual aid, etc.).

Check-in : a practical way to meet

Going round the table at the start of a meeting is an increasingly common practice, where one after the other, people share what’s going on in their lives at the moment. The intention is good, but depending on the time of day, everyone’s state of mind, and the direction of the discussion, it can sometimes quickly become an additional burden for the group, like adding an item to the agenda just before closing time…

So here’s an alternative to the classic tour de table: the check-in, an alternative tested and approved by all the members present at the workshop!

Compassionate systems leadership

Behind these inclusive and benevolent practices lies a complex but meaningful theoretical framework. This is the compassionate leadership systems approach developed by Peter Senge and Mette Miriam Böll.

  • The Compassionate Leadership Systems (CLS) approach comprises an integrated framework for the development of capabilities and knowledge that strengthen the capacity of individuals and collectives to effectively advance systemic change initiatives. SCL develops skills and practices in three interconnected areas: personal mastery, reflexive or generative interactions and systems thinking.
  • SCL builds on effective practices to develop individual insight and well-being, and extends them to include strengthening interpersonal relationships while deepening understanding of how the whole system contributes to results. (free translation, compassionates systems leadership)

Sylvie briefly introduced us to the iceberg figure (Senge, 2006) to better understand the different mental, social and systemic layers that influence individual reactions and behaviors. In short, it’s not just a question of reacting to visible symptoms, but of transforming the mechanisms that cause them.

Optimistic fencing: a practice that helps you find yourself again

Then we part with a final thought… What do I take back with me? A question that gives us the opportunity to share our state of mind, our gratitude, but also the things we’ve learned, the things that have surprised us and the discoveries that have marked us, for example. The space remains open to dialogue, without participation being compulsory.

Again, this is a practice that could be integrated into the classroom, during a team meeting, following a special event, etc.

And you, at the end of this reading, what will you take back with you?

About Sylvie Mazerolle

Sylvie Mazerolle (she) is a certified Master Practitioner in Compassionate Systems Leadership (MIT), based in Nelson BC, on the Sinixt territories. She is principal of École des Sentiers-Alpins and Nelson Secondary School in British Columbia (on the Sinixt territories), as well as a member of the Canadian Network of Play Schools.

Workshop summary written by Alison Cattani-Nardelli