"This is one of the most important lessons I will teach this week." Every week of the school year I said the same thing when the social skills lesson began. I said it because I believed it. I still do.
In a teaching career that spanned 40 years, I knew that my students were going to learn, in varying degrees, the core subjects. Learning how to get along with others and get along with themselves was a universal lesson. Every student needed those skills no matter where their future took them.
No Quick Fix
Students can be taught strategies to develop a healthy sense of self and how to build positive relationships with peers.
In any type of effective social skills training there is no quick fix. It is much like raising a child. It doesn't happen in a week or a month or a year. Social skills training is not a unit of work in a subject that has a beginning and end. I believe these classes are often overlooked as a teachable subject because there is no week ending test where we can say, "There, the students have all learned to be resilient."
These lessons take time and should flow through the school years with each grade building on the lessons from the previous year. Research has proven that school-wide programs are effective in enhancing pro-social behaviour and reducing bullying behaviour. Those programs do exist and they do aid in producing a positive school climate. The not for profit Peace Education Foundation in Miami Florida is just one example of excellent grade specific programs available.
Students can be taught strategies to develop a healthy sense of self and how to build positive relationships with peers. Students need the time to assimilate weekly lessons. They need time to practice the elements of pro social behavior with problem solving skills, use anger management strategies, and develop conflict resolution expertise.
Grade 1 Life Lesson
A moment during a grade 1 class is one of my favourite memories. They were "learning" to give a compliment. First they had to identify the reasons we give a compliment. Then it was learning ways to use the skill. When I came back to that class for a follow up lesson the next week, they were jumping up and down with excitement, eager to tell me about the compliments they had given to others.
A Resilient Student Is An Emotionally Healthy Student.
They accept and appreciate others. They can stand up to bullies. Their strong sense of self, their resilience, allows them to be role models for the school. They can cope with adversity and adapt to change. They have a realistic world view. What they can do for the world matters far more than what the world will do for them.
Bullies Are Not Resilient.
Their character flaws and personality holes have been well documented. It is a foolish notion to think we can forever rid ourselves of the bullies of the world. Just look around your own workplace. Resiliency is a character trait found in students who are not easily swayed by the bravado of bullies. There is a healthy emotional distance between the resilient student and the bully. They see the bully for who they are, and can walk away. We hear those emotionally healthy students say, "I don't care what that they think or say."
There aren't any quick fixes to so many life lessons. Students need the time to develop the capacity to build strong, meaningful, respectful relationships with family and friends. Empathy for others goes a long way to having a student who is compassionate and can see beyond the face value of a situation.
An emotionally healthy student is receptive to learning. They are an asset to classroom and school.
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