Leaders from Bester Elementary school took a special trip today to Ecoff Elementary School in Chester, Virginia, to learn more about the social and emotional learning programming taking place in their school. Amongst a host of strategies taking place at Ecoff. Principal Joshua Cole, Ph.D., has adopted Caring School Community to increase emotional intelligence and build community and has explained that “the key word here is empathy”.
The morning consisted of visits into a variety of classroom settings where the work was on full display as teachers hosted classroom meetings, and spent time helping children learn the fundamentals of social emotional learning, including relationship skills, responsible decision making, social awareness, self-management and self-awareness.
In Ms. Richardson’s class, 3rd grade and Kindergarten worked together as a part of the cross age buddies mentoring component to discuss problem solving together, and she implored the students to say, “I will be the solution finder!” in and outside of the school setting. In Ms. Ebbs classroom students were asked to draw a picture to represent a time where they were kind to others, and students described not only sharing and taking turns, but using the right words such as “excuse me” and “please and thank you” to prevent peer issues. Ms. Staenart has worked to create a home-like environment in her classroom so kids feel comfortable sharing and talking through problems. In her classroom meeting kids talked together about a situation on the playground where things got a little rough amongst peers, and what they should to do prevent this next time. The teacher simply guided the conversation and allowed the kids to solve this problem as a group. Kids have the answers!
There were a variety of school values on display in the meetings, including “be brave” which encouraged kids to take chances and not fear failure. Teachers would often use hand signals and quiet voices to model positive classroom behaviors for their students.
After touring classrooms, a panel of students and school staff came together to discuss what has been the greatest benefits of the program. Student Julia Custis explained, “It helps kids realize what they’ve done and learn from it.” Student Brandon Wilcox explained “[Class meetings] teach me how to be disciplined and listen to what people are saying. I also use it in my neighborhood.” He continued, “I have to learn to be respectful even when I’m mad. Basically, we need to be friendlier.” The counselor explained, “It’s a guidance counselor’s dream to have the teacher’s doing this work with you.”
Bester Community of Hope has been partnering with Bester Elementary in Hagerstown, Maryland to implement a variety of evidence based practices and provide trauma informed education at the school over the past two years, including Caring School Community which began in the Fall of 2016. BCOH will host its next large scale community training focused on school based practices on March 29th with Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone.