“Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs
The prolonged school lockdowns that started in early spring 2020 disrupted children’s routines, including normal school days and activities. It quickly blocked their access to the basic supports that schools provide, including the face-to-face contact with teachers and friends — a base fundamental to a child’s development. Being away from the classroom has not only contributed to reduced student performance, it has stretched the limit of children’s social and emotional well-being.
At Stratford School, we understand that social and emotional learning is paramount to student development and academic success, and the pandemic emphasized the need to elevate its importance. So we reached out to some of our Stratford principals, teachers and parents to find out what activities or programs they implemented during the pandemic that made an impact on students’ daily lives and social and emotional learning, and here’s what they had to say!
Read, Read, Read
Keira Pride – Head Librarian
Stratford School took its on campus/in-class book clubs online! Since we couldn’t hold library visits in person, Stratford librarians scheduled weekly book club sessions for students, Preschool – 5th Grade. Each week, hundreds of students would “zoom in” for an age-appropriate story followed by an in depth, and often very lively, book discussion. These weekly meetings not only created a community of literature-loving students, Stratford’s virtual book club created a safe place for students to share and connect socially with their peers. Ample time was included before and after each weekly story time so students could share whatever was on their mind — introducing their pets and siblings, to sharing their favorite food or excitement over losing a tooth – and some even presented artwork or school projects to the group. Students loved spending time connecting with their friends and sharing many laughs.
Create Friendship Circles
Mary Kiely – Lower School Director, Washington Park Campus
Stratford Washington Park held online and in-person Friendship Circles with students and the Lower School Director. These circles centered around the book Friendship and Other Weapons. Each week, we took time to create engaging activities and discussions around friendships and how to treat people. We discussed feelings and perspective, talking with peers in order to find ways to navigate difficult friendships, as well as being proactive in building strong foundations for friendships through discussion, games, writing and scenarios with role play.
Create An Emotional Bond
Annissa Mason Doumitt – Parent, Altadena Campus
When the first-grade children transferred to in-person learning from online, the teacher encouraged everyone to bring their favorite stuffed animal to school to sit in the bin by their desk. As this was a new landscape for children, wearing masks, socially distanced and unable to touch or hug after a long year of being separated, Mrs. Rains wanted the children to have something tangible they could hug when they wanted to hug their teacher or friend, were missing home or just needed some physical comfort. This was a wonderful way to transition to the classroom and recognize the isolation and wide range of emotions the children were feeling after all of this time.
Encourage Peer Relationships
Jennifer Garrone – Director Lower School, Crestmoor Canyon Campus
Throughout the 2020-21 school year, our school community had a ‘show must go on’ mentality and continued to host all events students would usually experience in a traditional school year, just this time — virtually! Connection with one another was definitely something that we adapted for our Stratford Online Academy students, and we found it important for students to have these opportunities to converse with one another. Aside from the usual morning meetings during the year, we hosted lunchtime socials for students that were led by online teachers or school leaders and provided students with an outlet for unstructured time. We also continued with our monthly spirit day assemblies, spirit weeks of free dress and campus-wide events, such as a virtual fall festival and spring picnic. Students truly enjoyed the events, because each of our events provided a sense of normalcy and something for our students to look forward to — it redefined and reimagined our school community.
Who’s Behind the Mask
Rachel Altreuter – Elementary Principal, San Francisco Campus
When we returned to in-person instruction after months of distance learning on Zoom, some of the kids were nervous about recognizing their teachers with a mask on. We created a bulletin board in front of the school called “Who’s Behind the Mask?” that showcased side-by-side photos of the teachers wearing a mask and without wearing a mask so that the children were sure to recognize their teacher!
We also hosted Friday lunchtime socials that allowed the kids learning online to connect with their in-person peers. Students were invited to join a video call hosted by our lunch staff where kids would play games together, tell jokes and riddles, and just hang out and socialize. We had some “regulars” who would come every time just to check in and say hello to their favorite lunch teachers!
Developing Emotional Intelligence
It can be challenging for students of any age to understand what they are feeling and learn to channel those feelings in ways that help them become better people and better learners. The key is developing emotional intelligence: knowing what emotions are, how they work and how to use them and manage them for social interaction and learning. Students also need to gain the capacity to recognize other people’s emotions, to discriminate among the different feelings and to label them appropriately.
As we return to school, not only will children continue to build foundational skills that will pave the way for academic success, they will also reignite social-emotional skills like kindness, sharing and self-awareness that will contribute to their overall success in life. If you are interested in learning more about Stratford School, or scheduling a personalized tour, visit us online at www.stratfordschools.com.