In March 2020, when the pandemic upended our lives, Maslow before Bloom became the mantra for many schools as they transitioned to online learning. For BD Primary, a caring community, this mantra has been guiding our work for years. Our educators work hard to balance academic and social-emotional growth of our students.
In BD Primary, we take pride in seeing happy and confident faces that surround us and strongly believe that the socio-emotional development of children is of utmost importance and once children feel secure and safe, learning will happen automatically. Socio-emotional development includes the child’s experience, expression and management of emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. It includes learning critical skills such as the ability to communicate, connect with others, resolve conflict, self-regulate, display kindness and empathy, and cope with challenges. Now with online learning sessions, this has become all the more important. The school day progresses in such a way to ensure the development of these important skills.
To help the children bond with their teachers and eventually their classmates in the virtual environment, individual calls are made by the teachers to each child from Reception to Grade 5 at the beginning of the new academic year, which then translates into individual, buddy and small group calls depending on the grade. This gives the children the opportunity to express themselves and talk about shared interests. Being listened to and responded to assures the children that they are important contributing members of their class. These calls do wonders for children who are hesitant to talk in whole-class settings or bigger groups, helping them build their confidence.
In the Morning Meetings, a daily feature of all primary classes, children come together as a community to share – be it information about things, their feelings, a family outing or cooking and eating breakfast together on a Friday morning. They ask questions, have discussions, and reflect.
In the Early Years, the Morning Meetings are combined with music and movement sessions, giving children a sense of belonging.
Children are encouraged to express their feelings via drawings and writings at different points in time. This helps the teacher gauge which direction she needs to steer her discussions in terms of socio-emotional growth for a specific child or a group.
Building with blocks teaches children to take turns and share; it teaches them patience, compromise, and cooperation. They take great pride in individual and collaborative work, and they respect the work of their peers. If someone’s building accidentally falls, numerous helpers jump in to assist with reconstruction. This kind of work teaches them to become self-reliant, builds self-esteem and increases attention span.
Social-emotional development is intertwined with and is central to all learning and success. It is embedded in all the individual and collaborative learning tasks and engagements planned throughout the day and is not restricted to one Moral Education or Value Education class in a week, as is conventionally seen in many schools. Discussions related to tough topics such as bullying, peer pressure, inequality, gender disparity, and values such as empathy, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, friendship, tolerance etc., are normalized and are explored during reading of complex and challenging literature and story books. Students are encouraged to share their perspectives and engage in healthy debates and discourse when exploring such tough topics. Such discussions optimize the learning environment and transform schools into safe, positive spaces.
One of the critical aspects to supporting socio-emotional development for children is connecting with families. At BD Somani International School, it is our constant endeavour to forge partnerships with the parent community and ensure that there are regular opportunities throughout the year to connect and communicate with the families. There is enough research to validate the fact that emotional health can facilitate or hinder children’s academic engagement, commitment, and eventual school success. Both parents and teachers often serve as affective and emotional role models for students and presence of these positive and supportive role models promotes long-term development of socio emotional skills in our students.
By providing a safe, supportive and nurturing environment, the teachers ensure that students are forthcoming in sharing their ideas freely and confidently. A positive atmosphere based on democratically agreed upon class agreements and respectful communication fosters trust and helps build a strong rapport with the students. In these unprecedented times that our students are growing up in, it has been our prime focus to continue with our well-being approach to learning, valuing the child’s perspective and constantly encouraging them to express their potential. The skilled educators at BD Somani along with the Support Team, that comprises our Special Educators and Counsellors, ensure that students not just develop self- awareness and emotional regulation but are able to make informed choices and engage in responsible decision-making as a valuable life skill.