– Creating a COMMUNITY of connection with your SEL
The fourth attribute to be discussed in our series is COMMUNITY. No social & emotional learning program should be without it. Plainly and simply – the work should be done in a group.
How can improving social skills be done without a society in which to practice them? How can you improve or change the collective mentality of your school community without first creating a connected community?
Demands made on schools curriculum and budgets leave little time in the day to add the dimension of teaching emotional intelligence in schools. Many character development programs suggest this ‘creative education’ be practiced as homework or possibly even guided by the parent. But this separates the social work from the very society the school is trying to effectively change. The private time of homework can lead to an opportunity for introspection and developing new and innovative opportunity for parental involvement is a positive. But in the particular arena of creative problem solving & life skills for children, it is our students’ relationship with their peers that must first be examined and developed. Done well, the personal growth and development here will lead to a social consciousness that resonates well beyond student life into the child’s relationship with themselves, their parents, neighbors and the World.
Community creates the perfect environment for teaching children empathy. Empathy can be defined as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another”. Empathy is the key for developing EQ or emotional IQ. EQ leads to social intelligence and finally social awareness of the community at large. These are the steps essential for connecting your community. When we make an empathetic connection to another a bond is created and the door to trust is opened. A community is born.
Community creates the opportunity to build self-confidence and increase self-esteem in the individual. Once the bond of trust is established, the group dynamic aides in helping children cope with a myriad of issues including grief, the effects of bullying, how to deal with divorce. As each child gains their voice and witnesses others like them do the same, developing communication skills improve their belief they have something to say and that someone will listen. They begin to believe that they too can ask the hard questions and survive the hard answers. The first step is taken toward creating a connected community as the child connects to him or herself.
Working in community teaches community. As we discussed in Part 3 of How To Select Your Social & Emotional Learning Program, through thoughtful questioning the intuitive mind is opened, and then in community the search for answers is witnessed, personal experiences are shared. Participants come to realize, through the witnessing and sharing, that we all share the same human frailties and fears. We learn we are not alone. We see that even though an individual may look different or act, dress or speak differently, at the core we are the same. There is no more effective atmosphere for teaching children values, teaching diversity and acceptance, for changing children who bully into children with emotional maturity and helping kids connect.
Finally and most significantly, as support & good feeling buoy each child so they will want to be a part of providing that support to others. As the group connects through mutual support the desire to protect each other from cruel or unsupportive behavior overtakes the forces that cause children to judge and harm. A desire to preserve this positive group dynamic discovered during social and emotional learning ingrains the lesson “It is better to give than to receive.” A social awareness is developed that reaches beyond the social & emotional learning group and extends to family and community outside the school.
THE MANADOOB PROGRAM FOR SELF-ESTEEM incorporates this step-by-step connectedness on a lesson-by-lesson development plan. The children watch Wella, the Manadoob heroine, as she connects to herself discovering her fears and learning to cope. The Ask It Workbook expands on this journey of self-discovery and connectedness. Chapter 1 through Chapter 6 of the workbook focus on the child as individual, with lessons like ‘Take A Look Around You,” “Seeing Beauty & Magic,” “Understanding Your Feelings” and “Life is Always Changing.”
Chapters 7 through 11 explore how individual actions can impact others and begin to examine the idea of empathy with lessons like “Beauty – Inside & Out” and “Positive Actions.”
When the participants reach Lessons 12 through 17 they begin frank and thoughtful discussions of difficult subjects like “We’re All Different & Unique,” “Mistakes Are OK,” “Bullies Are Not Cool,” “Acceptance. Treat Others The Way You Would Like To Be Treated” and “No One Is Perfect.” The children come face-to-face with the ramifications of their actions and accept responsibility for their behavior. They choose to change as they connect to the group.
The final Lessons 18 through 28 explore the various choices and values that can make up the human experience. Children perfect skills that focus their awareness away from fear and toward creative problem solving. Chapter 27 completes the cycle of connectedness as the children cheer for Wella as she helps the once bully, Zach and at the same time experience the lesson “Helping Others.”
Teacher and Manadoob Educator Kim Heckman in this video interview gives a first hand account of how The Manadoob Program works and the process and results she experienced with her students.
The world of The Manadoob Program guides children to examine the human condition in an atmosphere of abundance and solutions. As the children complete each phase their burgeoning emotional maturity and social responsibility are rewarded and celebrated. Value placed on relationships and connection to others becomes a joyful and fulfilling dynamic to be sought after, nurtured and protected. The educational atmosphere you dream of is realized where children are kind, teachers are engaged and learning from each other is the focus.
Three Westlake, CA students describe in this short video the changes and unity they experienced through working in community during The Manadoob Program for Self-Esteem.
The four keys to success: comprehensiveness, natural progression, inquiry-based, community. A social and emotional learning program that connects you to these four concepts will allow your students to give to you the educational culture you hope to create.