Before I jump into this week’s topic, I want to thank all of our families for helping your students this past week. I realize we are in a very difficult time, but the character and class everyone is demonstrating goes beyond any description. Thank You!
My recommendation is to keep challenging your students with life skills projects; cooking, cleaning, laundry, drawing, painting, etc. Make funny games out of reading; read upside down, write a story, call a relative and read, read with a funny hat on, read the Bible, play Math games, etc.
I will be communicating with you on the next steps for instruction as I receive specific directives from the Office of Catholic Schools.
In this week’s topic I would like to address the effects of ‘Social – Emotional’ learning in the classroom and in our school in general. As part of the culture of St. Edward we demonstrate the social emotional process every day, all day. It is demonstrated in how our students view and treat each other in the hallways, at lunch or on the playground. There is a school wide respect and a willingness to help and protect each other. These character traits are taught and encouraged by you the parent and by our teachers. Most often we view social behavior as separate from learning in the classroom. It is integral that we see the social emotional and academic growth of the student as partners in forming the ‘Whole Child.’
Concrete examples of students learning from both social interaction and the educational process, even without realizing it is: Athletics, Music, Band, Declamation, Computers(Technology), 3rd & 4th grade classroom, Preschool, Kindergarten, Physical Education classes, Art, behaviors and etiquette at our All School Mass and our Blessed Buddy Program. All of these activities listed are built on the involvement of students of different ages, talents, and backgrounds. The teachers/coaches guiding these activities have standards they expect each student to uphold and are dependent on peer tutoring and modeling from the older and more experienced students to lead the way. This modeling, formal or informal, allows the older students to teach the younger students how to act, how to address each other; how to demonstrate respect and care, how to follow the rules, all within the guise of completing the project, performance or game.
Before I continue in this discussion, I want to make it clear that group work led by any student on any level does not occur every day. Group work or student led work is designed by the teacher and implemented at the proper time. A major component that contributes to the success of these activities is simple numbers. Larger numbers in a setting allows for diversity of talents and abilities and over time promotes growth and learning. Students connect with other students on a number of levels; personality, the acceptance of a younger student by an older student, clarity in the way an advanced student helps a classmate. Ultimately, the younger student wants to grow up to be like their counterpart, their ‘hero’ and a classmate is valued. They are excited about learning through example. The advanced student learns as well, having to relate to the younger mind or explain a concept to a struggling classmate.
Keeping these examples in mind, insert this model into a classroom, and as data shows, social acceptance is a matter of habit and the educational benefits improves the climate in every classroom. How does this relate to classrooms at St. Edward?
With small classes, there is little to no social and/or educational diversity. Group work, performance based work is difficult or impossible to implement simply based on numbers. To this point, struggling students emotionally and socially eliminate themselves from the group because they cannot keep up. The advanced student does not feel challenged. Thus for that period of time both types of student shuts down, do not contribute and ultimately do not learn to their full potential. What’s the battle cry here? ‘I don’t want to be in that group, I can’t keep up.’ ‘I don’t want to be in that group because student A or B doesn’t help. I have to do all of the work.’ In a multiage class, as in our examples listed above, larger numbers adds diversity of talent in a group contributing to social and academic acceptance. The struggling student ‘blends in’ and is willing to contribute to the class or group based on that acceptance. The advanced student sees the value and challenge of leading with the added responsibility of advanced work. Data shows that students will relate and assist each other as a matter of course. And, with the creativity of our teaching staff, more academic opportunities will be available for the advancement of our students.
So, as a review, based on research and data, the added benefits of a larger classroom setting, i.e., examples listed above, classrooms:
- Will be educationally and socially diverse. Academic and social development is related and can be nurtured in a multiage setting. We are blessed to be able to openly teach religion, responsibility, respect, mutual respect, self-discipline and service to community.
- A student’s learning by example is greatly increased. Students on all academic levels will be accepted as an equal in any classroom setting. A student’s motivation to learn is greatly increased with the development of role models.
- The teacher will have more educational opportunities to introduce material in deeper, broader terms.
- Will have fewer personality conflicts, less negative competition between students.
- Have parents and teachers appreciating a more inquisitive student, a better citizen, a student that communicates, a student that develops respectful social skills and a constant willingness to grow and learn.
- Peer tutoring will benefit students on all academic levels.
- The teacher will present all necessary materials for all students with the purpose of developing individual talents and needs.
- An aide presence will be available to assist on the individual and group level.
- Students will be able to do more independent study as well as more exploration.
- Students will be able to work and grow based on their individual strengths.
- Students in this setting will be able to grow with their teacher over a two year period, allowing them to fully comprehend and master the subject matter. ‘Starting over’ at the beginning of the school year is minimized by the consistency of the two year rotation with the teacher. This eliminates anxiety and builds excitement.
- Lastly, we will continue to produce a respectful, disciplined and accomplished student representing St. Edward as they advance to high school and beyond.
It is very exciting and fulfilling to be able to zero in on details that better inform you on the actual construct of a classroom and how we are crafting our approach. With the guidance of our teaching staff, our students will excel with a deeper educational knowledge base, develop a sense of independence, and gain a respect and meaningful social emotional approach to their peers. As a school community we are dedicated in promoting a very positive and happy experience for all families at St. Edward Catholic School.
Future topics include comparative/academic/testing studies. A teachers approach in a multiage classroom. Challenges in teaching certain subjects in a multiage classroom, i.e. Math, Science.
I wish your entire family the best of health, take care and God Bless!