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Principal’s Message 12/13

Date: December 12, 2010 Author: admin Categories: Principals Message

Social and Emotional Learning at Brittan Acres

Hello BA Families,

One of many sources of my pride in Brittan Acres is the respectful way children interact with each other and adults. As educators preparing children for success in future communities, we take very seriously our responsibility to model and teach cooperation, concern for others, and peaceful strategies for resolving differences. What follows is an overview of strategies in place at our school to promote social and emotional learning.

Security, Belonging, and Self Esteem

We know that children’s sense of security, belonging, and self-esteem are fundamental to their readiness to learn and grow. To support that, Friendship Counselor Laura Macfarlane explicitly teaches all Brittan Acres students life skills including integrity, perseverance, and cooperation. Additionally, she leads small groups that focus on interpersonal skills and social awareness. During Physical Education classes and at lunch recess, P.E. Associate Cindy Fondacabe explicitly teaches and reinforces fair play and sportsmanship, emphasizing enjoyment and well being, rather than winning at playground games. Our classroom teachers explicitly teach the conflict resolution skills students need to be able to express their feelings and request that peers change offending behaviors.

“Healthy Play” Supports Cooperation and Caring

Meanwhile, Healthy Play is our play-based school-wide code of conduct. It provides guidance and language for problem solving in classrooms, hallways, and on the playground, and consists of a simple premise to which all young children easily relate: We play games to have fun, and the most important part of every game is the people.

Healthy Play sets forth two rules that everyone must follow:

1) If students are in a disagreement, they must leave the game and resolve it peacefully before returning to play. This rule teaches that conflict is normal. What matters is keeping conflict in perspective and resolving it expediently, so the fun can resume.

2) If someone is hurt, the closest person (or the person responsible) must stop playing and stay with the injured person, until they feel well enough to return to the game. This rule teaches students to play responsibly and to care for one another.

While based in play, Healthy Play easily generalizes to all situations at Brittan Acres. For example, the premise of playing games to have fun generalizes to students expecting to enjoy learning in their classrooms, while respecting and caring for one another. Disagreements may not interfere with others’ rights to learn, and should be quickly and independently resolved so everyone can get back to their learning. If students are hurt (body or feelings), the responsible children must stop everything and take care of them, rather than expect them to “get over it.” Because all teachers and staff are trained in Healthy Play, students are consistently reinforced for exemplifying the core values of cooperation and caring.

What Problem Solving Behaviors Do We Expect?

We hold our students to high standards of behavior, even when they find themselves in conflict. The following protocol is expected to resolve problems that do not include physical fighting:

  1. If you are unhappy with another’s behavior, try ignoring it. Without attention, it is likely to stop; also, you need not be affected by others’ choices.
  2. If ignoring doesn’t work, consider moving yourself away from the offending student.
  3. Use an “I-statement” that ends with a request; for example, “I feel frustrated when you ­­­step on my jump rope, because ­­­­I’m trying to do double jumps.  Please stop doing that.”
  4. If you’ve tried all of the above without success, get help from an adult.

When there is a physical altercation, we require students to report immediately to an adult for help. The yard duty will use discretion to either help students resolve the problem on the spot, or ask the classroom teacher and/or Mr. Triska to follow up with the students away from the playground.

Mistaken Behaviors as Opportunities to Learn

When we counsel children, it is with the assumption that they have simply made a mistake. Their job now is to understand what the mistake was, and try to fix it by apologizing, changing their behavior, and regaining the trust of the injured student.

In most cases, both conflicting children own some part of the mistaken behavior. Often, having been helped to organize their feelings and understand their actions, they leave the office feeling better about their relationship than before the incident occurred. When children wind up with me in the office, I always send a note home to their parents reporting the incident and the resolution. In the vast majority of cases, there is no need for parents to take action beyond a thoughtful conversation at home. The natural consequence of missing recess time to stay with an injured peer, or honestly apologizing and promising to change the mistaken behavior is enough. Excellent follow-up questions from parents include, “What did you learn from this experience?” and “What will you do if you find yourself in this situation tomorrow?”

Home to School Communication

Finally, please understand that when young children are upset, they sometimes choose to wait until they get home to vent uncomfortable feelings about a peer conflict, rather than seek help to resolve it at school. When this happens, please let your child’s teacher know what you learned at home. Our team will follow up to resolve the problem here at school. Believe it or not, you may have heard only one side of the story—and we will learn the rest of it when the children come together to share their points of view. In the end, we will get back to you with the resolution and any lessons learned.

I hope this Principal’s Message gives you a bigger picture of some of the social and emotional learning that takes place here at school. Have a wonderful Winter Break, and I’ll see you back at BA Monday, January 3!


John Triska