An education is about more than merely learning to read, write and master mathematics. It’s about learning to contribute to the world in a positive way, to master our minds and our manners. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Our children’s wellbeing is linked to their ability to excel academically and their overall success. The team at Stamford American School Hong Kong (Stamford) are advocates of this fact. The entire teaching body has completed training in the Second Step Programme. This programme works to support students in their academics and develop in them the essential skills required to navigate through life.
Underpinning the Second Step Programme is “social-emotional learning” (SEL). SEL focuses on mastering the ability to foster positive relationships, manage feelings and solve problems. It’s these essential life skills, the Stamford team points out, that help us cope with conflict and face life’s challenges. These skills may also prevent mental health problems. It’s important that children develop five areas of social and emotional skills: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, and relationship skills.
The power of empathy
Empathy is at the heart of SEL, and it’s something Stamford students learn about from their first year at school. Empathy is important because it helps us understand how other people are feeling. With empathy, we can put ourselves in their shoes, be aware of that person’s emotions and interact with that person appropriately.
Empathy is a powerful skill to master, and its benefits are great for both society and individuals. The results garnered from the Second Step Programme are tangible. As Mia Nortje from Stamford American School Hong Kong says, “This programme has shown to increase pro-social behaviour over a period of time, as it helps to give students strategies to make good choices by fostering empathy and awareness of others.”
How the programme works
Through Second Step, Stamford students are taught the tools to excel both in and out of the classroom. “It promotes skills for learning – empathy, emotion management and conflict management. All of which are needed to develop a strong emotional foundation,” says Mia Nortje.
Beginning from Pre-Primary (age 5), and up to Grade 8, SAIS students have a dedicated SEL lesson each week. In this lesson, practical exercises allow students to problem-solve with the support of teachers and peers.
As children enter middle school, the programme shifts away from the foundational skills learnt in primary. It then evolves to skills needed to navigate successfully into adulthood. The themes that middle school students explore are mindsets and goals, values and friendships and, thoughts, emotions and decisions.
Even as adults, many of us still struggle with some of these skills. Ensuring strong support at this stepping stone is critical. Ashley Perkins from Stamford American School Hong Kong explains, “In middle school, children are developing their identities and also navigating towards adulthood. So, supporting them through this pivotal phase is vital to ensure emotional wellbeing and success in high school and beyond.”
Once Stamford students are in high school, the programme becomes very personalised and evolves into an advisory phase. Each student has an advisor, but the students themselves must also take on more responsibility for their wellbeing.
“At Stamford, supporting students in and out of the classroom every step is a top priority. Academics are important, but a strong socio-emotional foundation is also needed to ensure a successful and happy future,” says Ashley Perkins.
Stamford American School Hong Kong is at 25 Man Fuk Road, Ho Man Tin.
2500 8688 | sais.edu.hk
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