We have devised a set of agreements as part of our social and emotional curriculum, which I hope we all will become familiar with over time. In addition to educating our children and teachers in this curriculum, we want to share these models with the parents of the school so there is more home-school alignment. Here is some background.
In 2011, our founding children, parents and teachers engaged in an in-depth conversation about our values and the vision of a school we dreamed of. This resulted in a set of powerful values, which we later clustered in three categories: values relating to thinking, to feelingand to doing. From our conception we have employed Marshall Rosenberg’s methods of Empathic Communication (www.cnvc.org). Subsequently, in 2013, we facilitated the children through a weekly process over two months of whole-school inquiries, from which we created a threefold “journey”:
My Thinking Journey:
Inquiry, Accountability, INTEGRITY
My Feeling Journey:
Gentleness, Compassion, HARMONY
My Doing Journey:
Diligence, Initiative, MASTERY
Then during 2015, we refined our model by incorporating an understanding of the nervous system from the work of Daniel Siegel and Peter Levine. During the year we have developed a broad-minded anti-bullying policy in the school, now ready to be presented. These two modalities (Empathic Communication and Whole-Brain Thinking) are now the core aspects of our emotional intelligence curriculum.
Incidents between children can often be emotionally charged, resulting in a sense of threat, tending to create social contexts where children are pushed into a fight-flight-freeze mode of instinctive survival.
After an incident that appears threatening — to oneself or someone else — it is normal to experience a spike in the nervous system immediately resulting in a “dysregulated nervous system”. This can mean it is either “stuck on ON” (e.g. anxiety, restless, hyper-vigilance, hostility, etc) or “stuck on OFF” (e.g. depression, exhaustion, lethargy, disconnection). With enough time, space and acknowledgement, our systems naturally come back to a healthy regulated state. Sometimes, additional support is needed to help one’s system to return to healthy functioning.
When children’s systems become “stuck on OFF”, they can deny, suppress and hide from their difficult feelings. These children need gentle coaxing and encouragement through feeling seen, safe and soothed, so that they gradually start to feel more internally secure (Dan Siegel’s 4 S’s) and are no longer “stuck”. Alternatively children (or adults!) might find their adrenalin starts pumping quickly, and then their systems can become “stuck on ON” for a time.
This stuff is relevant to people of all ages. At Kairos we learn with the children about our personal emotional makeup, its needs and triggers, and how we can train ourselves and support each other in improving our self-control and our self-awareness. We employ educational storytelling, theatrical skits, organised workshops, one-on-one therapeutic support and ordinary didactic teaching, to learn these ideas.