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Social emotional learning in action at PIADS

The Phuket News sits down with Krysten Fort-Catanese, the Director of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mindfulness at Phuket International Academy Day School (PIADS) ahead of their Mindfulness in Education Workshop for teachers from October 19-20.

Thursday 3 October 2013, 12:01PM

Social emotional learning in action at PIADS

Tell us a little bit more about your role as Director of Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness at PIADS, and how you have integrated social emotional learning and mindfulness into the school curriculum.

The role of Director of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mindfulness at PIADS was created in 2012. It is a very unique position and indicates the deep commitment PIADS has to fulfilling our school mission. This position makes up part of our leadership team and affects everything from the hiring of teachers to the day-to-day experiences in the classrooms. We approach SEL and mindfulness in age-appropriate ways across the school. We do focused lessons as well as "seasoning the day" with these practices so that SEL and mindfulness become a part of our school culture and not just another "add-on." We truly have a whole-child, whole-school approach at PIADS.

How does social emotional learning and mindfulness enhance the IB curriculum offered at Phuket International Academy Day School (PIADS)?

For two years we looked at the very robust IB Learner Profile and adapted it to our particular needs. We added elements that focus on the importance of internal inquiry in order to emphasise the self-awareness that is required for the overall well-being of our staff and students.

The IB recognises the value of explicitly identifying how important it is for student learning, retention, and cultivating emotional balance. We are very proud to have been a part of this development with the IB and look forward to future collaboration.

You speak about 'whole school approach'. Could you elaborate on this?

We have a whole school approach in that we view well-being at both the individual level and community level. We focus on the students, teachers, and families in developing a spirit of support, excellence, and compassion for self and others. Since 2009, PIADS has had dedicated professional development focusing on SEL and Mindfulness. We also give a lot of attention to teacher self-care. Each morning, I lead a morning mindfulness practice that helps teachers to focus our attention and gets us ready for a positive start to the day. I am also piloting an 8-week course for PIADS teachers, focusing on the development of a personal mindfulness practice and exploring engaged styles of teaching.

How are you involved in developing social emotional learning and mindfulness in education in South East Asia?

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I am currently consulting and co-leading sessions and trainings across the region, including holding workshops for each of the International Baccalaureate Global Centers. PIADS will also be offering a Mindfulness in Education Workshop for teachers from October 19-20, in partnership with the MindWell Foundation.

Through Thanyapura, we are also building up a partnership with the Mind and Life Institute, whose contributions over the past 25 years have helped to create rich dialogues between the scientific community and contemplative practitioners.

PIADS is often referred to as a "Lighthouse" school. What does this mean?

PIADS is often referred to as a "Lighthouse" school because of the way we give equal emphasis to academic rigour and developing mental and emotional balance. We believe "mental hygiene" is just as important as physical hygiene.

PIADS doesn't just state the importance of it in their literature, it brings it to life in the way it nurtures and supports its teachers, students, and community so that they are better able to truly flourish, whether this is with school work, sport, music, or relationships. As psychologist William James said back in 1890, "For the moment, what we attend to is reality." Our aim is that through seeing children as co-constructors of their world and not just compliant bystanders, we bring to light a "way of being" that will benefit them for many years to come.


Krysten has a Bachelor's degree in Cultural Anthropology and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership and Social Justice. In 2010, she completed the Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher Training (CEBTT) with Dr Paul Ekman and Dr Alan Wallace at the Thanyapura Mind Centre. Krysten is an international presenter, offering workshops to IB schools and organisations.

For more information on this and an event on education with the Mind and Life Institute on November 3, email:



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