Why Captains & Poets?

Captains & Poets is the SEL program students will take with them their entire lives.

The unprecedented global challenges of the past few years have elevated the importance of making well-being and connection a key priority in young people’s lives. Many classrooms around the world are in a state of dysregulation, teachers are burnt out, and parents are exhausted and lacking resources. Captains & Poets recognizes there needs to be an infusion of energy, resources and support that is easy to implement and yields immediate impact. Our mission is to ignite a renewed sense of well-being and belonging from young people themselves by supporting educators with tools that empower a positive sense of agency and purpose in the world. 

Key Benefits of Our Programming

  • Easy to implement
  • Gives students ready access to self-awareness
  • Aligns to co-curricular and extra-curricular programming
  • Comprehensive curriculum that can be adapted by subject, class, and student needs and interests
  • Establishes a common language between school and home environments to support student growth and development

How We Bring SEL to Life

Captains & Poets harnesses the intersection between well-being and identity to enable young people to be their best selves. Common sense tells us that feeling like we don’t belong impacts our well-being. Likewise, when we are not at our best we are less likely to be positively engaged in our social environment.

We integrate research from Neuroscience, Psychology, Mindfulness and Pedagogy to support healthier classrooms and set students up for optimal success. Learn more about our integrated approach below.

We Bridge SEL & Inclusion Initiatives

Neuroscience shows we are wired to connect and that it is a critical aspect of our well-being.

  • Well-being is a social condition that involves inclusion, belonging, peacefulness, and human rights. Strong well-being programs and policies see the connections between the psychological states of children and the eventual state of the world. (Hargreaves, Shirley, 2022, 5)
  • Dr. Matthew Lieberman coined the term social cognition to describe our instinct for self-preservation to keep us safe from harm by constantly scanning and assessing our environment for signs of rejection and exclusion. He and his colleague Dr. Naomi Eisenberger also demonstrate that social pain maps in the brain in the same way as physical pain, having a direct impact on our well-being. The cumulative effects of exclusion wear down a person’s psychological well-being, biological, emotional and behavioral functioning, which then impacts performance, self-esteem and confidence. (2009)
  • Well-being initiatives can be occasions for critical thinking, political empowerment, and resilience directed toward changing the world, not just toward managing ourselves. (Hargreaves; Shirley, Well-Being in Schools, 56)

Captains & Poets fosters a safe environment where students can be their full, authentic selves. By helping students to see that ”we are all the same because we are all different” they are able to connect more deeply with their own humanity and embrace that of others. We believe that self-awareness is not only the path to well-being but also inclusion. And when we connect well-being with inclusion initiatives we create sustainable SEL implementations and a more positive school culture.

“The Captains & Poets curriculum requires learners to bring their whole, authentic selves to the classroom and community. This means examining their identities and how they show up for themselves and others. Through this critical reflection, the curriculum promotes inclusion for all.” – Sheliza Jamal, DEI Consultant, Curated Leadership

We Align to the Curriculum

An effective SEL program enhances the classroom learning experience. We know that academic performance is a critical aspect of student well-being and success and finding ways to enhance it is a key objective of SEL. 

  • Drawing on students’ experiences is central to their learning, makes the curriculum more meaningful as they engage more actively in the knowledge construction process and helps students see themselves reflected in the learning that takes place in the classroom (Villegas & Lucas, 2002)
  • Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP) is known to nurture and promote student achievement, well-being and sense of belonging. 

Teachers don’t need another thing on their plates so Captains & Poets is aligned to learning outcomes in literacy, literature, social studies, history, the arts, health, guidance programs, resource classrooms and International Baccalaureate (IB) program themes.

The student-centered nature of lessons enables educators to draw on the lived experience and unique perspectives of students enabling greater connection and engagement with the curriculum.

“Captains & Poets is an excellent unit promoting inclusion and a positive school climate. It engaged my Grade 7’s with multimedia and thought-provoking activities. Activities connect well with Health and Language curriculum and assessments.”  – Grade 7 Teacher, TDSB

We Enable a Whole-School Approach

Creating a healthy and positive school environment takes a 360 approach.

  • A meta-analysis of more than 200 elementary, middle, and high school SEL programs found that at high-quality implementation sites—those where the SEL program was embedded in school culture and consistently used and reinforced across contexts—students’ academic gains were twice that of students in low-quality implementation sites, reductions in conduct problems were nearly twice as large, and reductions in emotional distress were more than twice as large (Durlak et al., 2011; Durlak, 2016).

A whole-school approach can seem overwhelming and Captains & Poets implementations are designed to minimize the heavy lifting and maximize immediate impact. Captains & Poets aligns to the curriculum, daily routines, and extra-curricular settings to ensure a consistent and wholistic approach. We also provide fun and engaging Drawing and Activity Books and a Youth Journal to bridge with the home environment so that teachers and parents can align to support student success.

“The Captains & Poets program acts as a formalized platform for integrating SEL in the classroom with a consistent approach across classrooms. It provides a common language for kids and they recognize it as something they all go through. It is a great way to address the social/emotional learning of young people.” – Grade 8 Teacher, TDSB

We Foster Connection

Studies show that connection is foundational to well-being, healthy relationships, AND classroom learning highlighting the complex dynamics in play in classrooms.

  • The strength and quality of the connections is what determines the nature of the learning environment, and the level of engagement (Allodi, 2010; Shernoff, 2013).
  • Children’s social relations affect their feeling of connectedness at school, which affects their sense of academic competence. [4] Guay, F., Boivin, M., & Hodges, E. V. E. (1999). Predicting change in academic achievement: A model of peer experiences and self-system processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 105–115.
  • Empathetic children with good perspective-taking skills are less likely to be physically, verbally, or indirectly aggressive toward peers. [3] Kaukiainen, A., Bjorkqvist, K., Lagerspetz, K., Osterman, K., Salmivalli, C., Rothberg, S., et al. (1999). The relationships between social intelligence, empathy, and three types of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 81–89.

Captains & Poets helps students connect more deeply to self, others and the world around them so that they can thrive. We focus on the Superpowers of empathy, compassion, resilience, curiosity, gratitude and courage to enhance their experience and contribute to a healthier, more inclusive learning environment.

“Captains & Poets provides a blueprint for social connection. Children learn to contribute to a group and feel positive about the way they co-exist with others.” – Primary School Teacher, SCDSB

We Ignite Engagement

Student engagement is a critical aspect of learning and is facilitated by social interaction within the learning context. It supports a stronger sense of connection to the curriculum, the teacher and to other students. 

  • Engagement is defined as a learner’s sense of connection to what they are learning, how they are learning, and who they are learning with and from (Suarez-Orozco et al., 2010).
  • Engagement is fundamental to learning, and the quality of the learning environment has been shown to be the most influential variable affecting the level of engagement in adolescents. (Allodi, 2010; Shernoff, 2013).

Captains & Poets is designed to engage students in deeper ways and to open up opportunities for deeper connection to teachers, peers, and subject matter. The student-centered nature of lessons promotes student voice and self-discovery while providing educators with greater access, insight and responsiveness to students’ socio-emotional states, lived experience and unique perspectives. Captains & Poets helps engage and empower students in their learning while contributing to a more inclusive learning environment. 

“It is easy to implement, flexible, and students will really enjoy the activities. This was a blessing and really worked out well at the end of a tough year as it kept students engaged.” – Grade 8 Teacher, TDSB

We Align to Your School Context and Priorities

Every school is different and implementing a blanket intervention across schools can limit engagement and impact.

  • SEL interventions show the largest effect size when the intervention is designed with a specific context or culture in mind. This supports the idea that SEL is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ intervention. (Wiglesworth et al., 2016)

There are several important factors to consider in planning your SEL implementation. The Captains & Poets program is simple but rich and can be adapted to different priorities (e.g., well-being, inclusion, bullying, dealing with change, etc.) and themes (e.g., leadership, friendship, teamwork, career planning, advocacy, etc.). We offer a range of solutions including curriculum, keynotes, workshops and books to align to your specific needs and budget.

“Working with Captains & Poets was awesome! They were adaptable to our needs and priorities as a school and offered a deeply engaging leadership program for our students. We knew after the first session that this was something special and that we would want to do more work with them in the future.” – Coordinator, Student Wellbeing Programs, Upper Canada College

“The brilliance of Captains & Poets was their ability to tailor the workshops to our school leadership and character development programming as well as students’ individual leadership journeys.” – Director of Character and Leadership Development, Holy Trinity School

We Build Mindfulness Into the Day-to-Day

Cognitive engagement can be challenging when students are emotionally charged. Extensive research validates the ability of calming practices like meditation and mindfulness to put the brain and body in a state where it can learn more effectively. Neuroscientists have shown that practicing mindfulness has a wide-range of impacts including the ability to self-regulate emotions, be introspective, engage in complex thinking, and have a stronger sense of self.

  • Just as we have the fight or flight response, science has demonstrated that we also have what is called “the Relaxation Response”. When we activate this side of our physiology, we have the power to return to pre-stress levels, step back from what is triggering us, calm our nervous systems, centre ourselves and choose our response. (Dr. Herbert Benson)
  • Numerous studies demonstrate the effectiveness, ease of implementation and the cost-effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in addressing stress and teacher burnout in school settings (Abenavoli, Harris, Katz, Jennings, & Greenberg, 2014; Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012; Stanley, 2011; Winzelberg & Luskin, 1999)

While we do include Mindfulness and Meditation activities, the entire program is designed to help students be more mindful so that they may engage with the world around them in a conscious and constructive way.

The Captain and Poet act as an interface to mindfulness making young people more aware of what is going on inside of them, the dynamics at play, and what they need. This enables students to pause, get centred and respond more thoughtfully. Giving students access to their Poet and how they are feeling supports what Dr. Dan Siegel’s (author of The Whole-Brain Child) expression “Name it to tame it,” as naming emotions reduces their intensity. The Captain is then engaged to navigate the situation with greater calm and perspective.

“Students are able to connect thoughts and feelings with actions and to deepen their relationship with themselves and others.” – Dr. Krista Leh, SEL Consultant, Resonance Ed

We Encourage a Growth Mindset

Neuroscience tells us that attitudes toward our self and our perceived abilities can directly impact self-esteem, well-being and what students are willing to invest in themselves and the challenges in front of them. It follows that teaching students that their personal and social attributes can be developed is the foundation for setting students up for success.

  • Research has shown that growth mindset has an impact on children’s behavior, particularly in terms of effort, motivation and resilience and enables teachers to coach students in applying self-regulatory strategies that help fuel their success. (Yeager, Dweck, 2012; Dweck, 2008)
  • Children low in self-esteem tend to be shy and introverted, with self-imposed limitations and a fixed mindset. Those high in self-esteem are enthusiastic, active, feel a greater sense of worth, and, perhaps most importantly, feel comfortable with who they are (Keshky & Samak, 2017; Dweck, 2017).

Captains & Poets leverages a heightened sense of self-awareness and a focus on self-discovery to empower students to be their best, full, authentic selves. By understanding their innate strengths and giving them access to a broader repertoire of skills through the Captain and Poet they can see for themselves they are wired for success!

“Captains & Poets helped my students realize we all have the potential to be the best version of ourselves by focusing on progress and not perfection on the learning journey.” – Grade 7 Teacher, TDSB

We Inspire a Positive Sense of Agency

Psychologists have identified intrinsic motivation as a powerful force in shaping who we are and how we behave. In contrast with extrinsic motivators like rewards and incentives, intrinsic motivation comes from within drawing on our core values, our beliefs about ourselves and the world, and our passions. These innate drivers can be particularly important in times where resilience and perseverance are required. 

  • Self-Determination Theory [popularized in Daniel Pink’s book Drive] made ground-breaking links between personality, human motivation, and optimal functioning. It posits that there are two main types of motivation—intrinsic and extrinsic—and that both are powerful forces in shaping who we are and how we behave (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
  • We are all driven to fulfill three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness – each necessary for optimal human functioning. (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Ryan and Deci, 2000) 

The Captain and the Poet help illuminate our inner drivers on an individual level and the needs and rewards that go along with honoring them. They help students realize they have a unique contribution to make in the world, that they can make a difference in their own life and the lives of others. 

“The program gives students the space and tools to thrive as they navigate their futures.” – CEO, The Nugent School

“The program provides a lens for advocacy and agency around how we respond to things going on in the world right now.” – Grade 7 Teacher, TDSB

We Support Teacher Success & Well-Being

SEL strategies can only thrive in classrooms where consistent messages and practices from teachers are modelled and present in their interactions. There is also an important connection between teacher well-being and student performance that highlights the importance of supporting both teachers and students. One of the unacknowledged benefits of SEL programs is that teachers also benefit from bringing self-awareness practices into the classroom as they are more aware of their own emotions, triggers, stress levels and the strategies for dealing with them. A type of co-regulation across teachers and students becomes possible as self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, self-management and responsible decision-making are more at the forefront of classroom environments.  As with many things, when it comes to SEL, we often teach what we need to learn!

  • Student cortisol levels are directly correlated with teachers reporting feeling overwhelmed and when teachers are highly stressed, children show lower levels of social adjustment and academic performance. (McLean & Connor, 2015; Hoglund et al, 2015; Oberle and Schonert-Reichl, 2016)
  • Teaching educational material to others can help develop a deeper and longer-lasting understanding of the subject matter. (Koh, Lee Lim, 2018)

The Captain and Poet provides a natural language that teachers can not only model but internalize in their own authentic way. This enables them to embark on the same journey of self-discovery and self-leadership as students. We offer a Teacher Reflection Guide (early 2023) and Professional Development workshops to promote teacher well-being and its positive impact downstream in the classroom.

“The most valuable thing I learned in this workshop was how looking deeper into our [SEL] skills can positively impact our work.” Teacher Graduate, Niagara University

“Working with Captains & Poets was awesome! We knew after the first session that this was something special and that we would want to do more work with them in the future.

Coordinator, Student Wellbeing Programs, Upper Canada College

Bring Captains & Poets To Your School!

Get in touch to learn more about our programs and packages.