Our collective belief that the social curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum led The Experiential and Lower Schools at Shorecrest to embrace Responsive Classroom Approach.
The seven guiding principles of Responsive Classroom are:
- The social and emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
- How children learn is as important as what they learn.
- Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
- To be successful academically and socially, children need to learn a set of social and emotional skills: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
- Knowing the children we teach—individually, culturally, and developmentally—is as important as knowing the content we teach.
- Knowing the families of the children we teach is as important as knowing the children we teach.
- How we, the adults at school, work together is as important as our individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.
The work Shorecrest Lower School teachers do with Responsive Classroom strategies focuses on being proactive -- meaning we create the classroom environment that sets children up for success so disciplinary issues and class disruptions are few. We recognized that creating a warm, safe, and dynamic learning environment that supports all kinds of minds and engages students to be active learners requires teachers to help children develop a strong sense of community, as well as self regulating/self control strategies.
The Lower School approach to management in discipline, which comes from the Responsive Classroom work, begins by creating a safe and comfortable learning environment and building caring relationships with students. Students start the year by writing and sharing their hopes and dreams, and deciding together what they can do to create a classroom that can support their goals. Together students and teachers work to establish class rules/agreements with the children, and by modeling and practicing routines and procedures.
Being clear and consistent with expectations is important for children because class “rules” support and anchor students. When children feel valued, known, and included in establishing rules, they make good choices and develop better self-control. For the most part our young students support each other in upholding the rules and living by our five core values (respect, responsibility, compassion, integrity and knowledge). They consider the “we,” even when they want to focus on the “me.” Nevertheless, there are times when a student will make a poor choice, misbehave, act impulsively, speak unkindly or test the limits -- all normal developmental behavior.
When there is the beginning of some challenging behavior, teachers address it quickly by providing a visual or verbal cue, redirecting student behavior, increasing proximity, and/or providing a space for children to “take a break” so they can return to the group knowing what is expected and feeling positive because they have regained control and are making the choice to be part of the group. For minor problems there can be logical consequences to help the child learn. We go by “you break it you fix it” or a loss of privilege -- the consequence needs to be respectful, related and realistic. We should always maintain the dignity of the child.
Being proactive, teachers take a lot of time to model the rules and to allow time for students to observe and practice - telling children to do something, i.e. handling equipment with care or including others in play is one thing, but showing is another.
When responding to misbehavior teachers can help a student gain self control by responding quickly, directly/firmly and respectfully, always demonstrating empathy for the student. The teacher stops the unwanted behavior and affirms positive behavior.
Achieving a climate of warmth and joy, like our Experiential School and Lower School teachers do, means taking the time to help our students develop the skills and strategies to be their best and achieve their learning goals. I have no doubt the Responsive Classroom language and approach is applicable to our lives as parents.We need to provide clear and consistent expectations, empathy, respect, and logical consequences that help student learn and grow.