'We are good friends' is equally a promise and a belief of the BEPS community. We promise that we will support your children in learning about themselves and others and in building meaningful relationships. We believe that creating a safe and caring space enables children to learn. Building up friendships is critical to the harmonious development of a child. The environment, the culture and being inspired, all influence this process.
Before the holiday, the children received the Golden Rules Certificates for being a good friend. It was a moment to celebrate achievement and acknowledge the children who have been consistently demonstrating this Golden Rule. However, learning how to be a good friend goes beyond this.
We asked the children who received the certificates to become Good Friends Ambassadors. Their role was to spot classmates who were demonstrating this Golden Rule, take a picture of the moment and tell their peers about it. What better way to learn than being an action researcher and getting feedback from classmates?
Building up a culture that fosters positive relationships is not just the teacher's role. Naturally, the teachers set the tone with their language, behaviour, conflict resolution guidance, positive reinforcement and all the planned activities related to social-emotional development.
Parents also play an important part in this. I received recently an email from a child's mum. She was concerned about an episode that happened in school. Her son received a sticker during his EAL lesson and another child wanted to take it. The first child tried to protect his sticker, but, unable to fully understand what his classmate wanted from him, was concerned about hurting his feelings. At home, he explained the situation to his mum, in his mother tongue. She helped him to understand the 'sticker-situation' and I, as his teacher, dealt with the same story in class.
Parents and teachers working together to help the child can only lead to increased social-emotional awareness. Children gain understanding, but also skills to deal with different social situations if explanations are the same at school and at home.
Nevertheless, even when teachers and parents team up, the most important work is the one done by the child. Much like Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device, Montessori wrote about the "human tendencies", certain genetic predispositions connected to children's needs such as the tendency to imitate, socialize, achieve independence or communicate. So, if children have this innate ability to socialize, what can adults do to support that? Whilst the list is endless, I will only mention what I believe is fundamental: free-play and child-led activities embedded in the timetables.
If anyone were to ask to see 'socialising in progress' at BEPS, I would point towards the playground. On the playground, children get to choose when, with whom, for how long they want to interact. For the same reasons, child-led activities are essential in the classrooms. Of course, asking children to work in groups during teacher-led activities fosters cooperation and the development of other social skills.
However, if we are to fully trust children and allow them to choose their activities independently and if we allow ourselves the time to observe them, we will certainly capture the most authentic, innocent, magical moments of human connection.
Author: Alexandra Asofie, Year 1 Teacher & Pre-School to Year 1 Academic Transition & IEYC Coordinator