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Outdoor Education: A Pathway to Personal Growth and Development

We have evolved into a more modern, technological, and globalized world but, in the process, we lost habits and experiences that influence our quality of life.

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“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.”

In the words of Charles Dickens, nature solely has the ability to acknowledge and appreciate the astounding presence of all beings in the world. It fosters and nurtures our personalities in a way that no other medium can match. Learning in the lap of nature has been an accepted way of imparting the values and concepts of education. From Socrates to Tagore, the ideologies gripping the fundamentals of education have been in relation to the external environment. India has been proud of its history which gave birth to learned and wise men who were the products of the Gurukul teachings. The philosophies circumscribing the ‘Guru-shishya Parampara’ run deep in our core value systems of education. Time changes with the passing years, and methods too but not the structured roots and pillars of a system.

When we talk about 2023, there has been a significant transition in the mediums or ways of imparting education. With the advent of Information Technology in education, the lessons taught have acquired multiple dimensions. Every discipline is linked with the other and learners are provided with the space to critically analyze all the aspects. The 21st Century is all about having a sustainable education which can never be achieved in absence of the external environment. For sustainable education, we need a sustainable society. Over the last few decades, there has been debate on how to establish the norms for sustainable education in a sustainable society.

According to UNESCO, education for sustainable development is about enabling people to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies. Learning in education for sustainable development often includes only knowledge, values, and theories related to sustainable development. However, it also means “learning to ask critical questions; learning to clarify one’s own values; learning to envision more positive and sustainable futures; learning to think systematically; learning to respond through applied learning; and learning to explore the dialectic between tradition and innovation.” Thus, it offers learners a context for developing active citizenship and participation, embracing the complexity of the interdependencies of ecological, societal, and economic systems.

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The overall goal of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014) was to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. Sustainable development education again is based particularly on environmental and ecological sciences and focuses on the interaction between ecological and social systems. It encourages students to critically reflect on the ideas of sustainable development and the values that underlie them and to create solutions to achieve concrete goals in a variety of unpredictable situations.

To achieve the goals of SD, active teaching methods such as process-based instruction, problem-based learning, and OE are recommended by several researchers. Process-based instruction focuses on developing students’ independence in learning and problem-solving by providing a framework into which curriculum activities can be placed. In problem-based learning, students use “triggers” from a problem case or scenario to define their own learning objectives. Subsequently, they do the independent, self-directed study before returning to the group to discuss and refine their acquired knowledge.

There is, however, no definitive description of authentic learning. Educators must make their own interpretations of what creates meaning for students in the classroom. Here we do not take the term authentic environment to mean only environments outside the classroom; instead, we take it to mean teaching strategies that make student experiences as authentic as possible compared to what happens in real life. In order to do so, the information to be studied and the environment in which learning takes place must be meaningful to the students. In addition, it also means that teachers should support the students to be reflective.

Different learning environments and current and contextual tasks used in problem-based learning and outdoor environment support self-efficacy, autonomy, engagement, and meaningful learning as well as foster creativity and flexibility. Collaborative learning can be supported e.g., by searching for information and producing knowledge in groups, by evaluating learning, action, and knowing together.

The specific features and stimuli of the outdoor environment provide different play opportunities that can hardly be replicated inside. The outdoors can be described as an open and constantly changing environment, where it is possible to experience freedom, gross and boisterous movements, and contact with natural elements. While playing outside, children benefit from being exposed to sunlight, natural elements, and open air, which contributes to bone development, a stronger immune system, and physical activity. The need to be physically active from an early age is particularly relevant if we consider the concerning growth of children’s obesity and overweight. According to the World Health Organization, Portugal is the second European country with the highest values of overweight among children 11 years old (32%), preceded by Greece (33%) and proceeded by Ireland (30%). Also, playing in green outdoor environments promotes higher levels of attention and well-being.

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The exploration of natural elements is also important to capture children’s attention to the richness and diversity of Nature. The sense of discovery and fascination influences meaningful learning and allows for the development of an emotional connection towards the environment. If we assume that attitudes of respect and care are more likely to emerge regarding something that is dear to us, then it is crucial to promote a sense of belonging and familiarity towards Nature from an early age to facilitate ecological and sustainable behaviors in life.

Through outdoor play and the exploration of natural elements, it is possible to promote education in its broadest sense. Activities related to playing with soil and water can serve as examples of learning opportunities in which concepts related to mathematics, science, or language were promoted in an integrated way. As children filled and emptied containers, several times, they could explore notions related to weight, volume, and time, and as they talked about what they were experiencing, a new vocabulary was being acquired. Similar findings were found in other research, showing, for example, children’s ability to learn and employ mathematical products and procedures during outdoor play, using their bodies as a learning tool.

The need to guarantee that children have the possibility to play outside, facing adventures and challenges, without being constantly engaged in activities controlled by adults is a recent concern for most western societies. We have evolved into a more modern, technological, and globalized world but, in the process, we lost habits and experiences that influence our quality of life. One of the major challenges of present and future generations may be the need to find a balance between an increasingly “busy” society and the preservation of experiences of well-being and connection to the world. The educational settings have an important role in this process, guarantying that during the first years of life, children have the means and opportunities to develop positive self-esteem, curiosity and motivation about learning and good socialization.

Author – Nita Nijhara, Middle School Headmistress, Bal Bharati Public School, New Delhi

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The Power of Emotional Intelligence: How SEL Can Transform Learning

Creating a culture of respect and kindness in the classroom fosters a sense of community and belonging

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Empathy and understanding are critical elements of a positive and supportive learning environment in the classroom. These qualities help the students to develop a sense of belonging and connection to their classmates and teachers. These elements also promote effective communication, cooperation with one another, and collaboration among students.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves the awareness of the emotions of others and responding to them with sensitivity, compassion, and kindness. Empathy is a fundamental skill for building healthy relationships, resolving conflicts, and creating a supportive community.

Understanding, on the other hand, involves the comprehension of information, ideas, or situations. It is the ability to perceive and interpret the world around us. Understanding is essential for critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making.

To build empathy and understanding in the classroom, teachers need to create a positive and safe learning environment where students feel valued, respected, and supported. Here are some strategies that can help achieve this goal:

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Model empathy and kindness – Teachers should model empathy and kindness in their interactions with students. It begins with the promotion of a comfortable environment. Teachers should practice actively listening, expressing gratitude, and showing appreciation for diversity. When students see their teachers practicing empathy and kindness, they are more likely to develop these qualities themselves.

Create a culture of respect and kindness – Teachers should establish a model code of conduct and should expect cordial behaviour. Students should be provided with consistent feedback when students fail to meet those expectations. They should also encourage students to be respectful and empathetic towards one another. Creating a culture of respect and kindness in the classroom fosters a sense of community and belonging.

Provide opportunities for students to share their perspectives and experiences – Teachers can create opportunities for students to share their personal experiences and perspectives through class discussions, group projects, or personal reflection assignments. When students are given the chance to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment, they are more likely to develop empathy toward others and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Expose students to diverse perspectives and cultures – Students grow empathy towards other people when they realize that their perspective is not absolute. This can be achieved only when students are exposed to diverse perspectives and cultures. They can do this by incorporating multicultural literature, films, and other media into the classroom curriculum. By exposing students to a range of experiences and perspectives, teachers can help them appreciate the richness and complexity of the world around them.

Encourage acts of kindness and service – Teachers can build empathy and understanding in the classroom by encouraging their students to engage in acts of kindness and service. An efficient way to achieve this is by way of engaging students in community service projects and volunteer work. Teachers can arrange field visits to different NGOs. On daily basis, small acts of kindness such as holding the door open for someone or offering a word of encouragement to a classmate will also go a long way in molding students’ mentality. With this, students will develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion towards others, and they learn to appreciate the value of giving back to their community.

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Empathy and understanding are not only critical for building a positive and supportive learning environment but also for promoting social-emotional learning. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing social and emotional skills that help individuals build healthy relationships, manage emotions, and make responsible decisions. SEL is essential for overall success in life.

Empathy is one of the five core SEL skills. The other skills are self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. These skills work together to help individuals navigate the social and emotional challenges of life.

Research has shown that schools that prioritize SEL have higher academic achievement, improved social skills, and better mental health. Moreover, students who have strong SEL skills are more likely to carry their academic life to higher education.

Conclusion

Teaching empathy and understanding in the classroom is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and attention. It is essential to incorporate these skills into the curriculum and to model them in classrooms.

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In conclusion, building empathy and understanding in the classroom is essential for creating a positive and supportive learning environment. I would further go on to say that more than being part of the curriculum, it must be a part of the school’s culture. It is only by establishing a culture of respect and kindness; promotions and acceptance of sharing of personal experiences and perspectives, and encouraging simple acts of kindness and service, that teachers can help their students to develop a greater sense of empathy and understanding towards others. When students learn to appreciate the diversity of experiences and perspectives that exist in the world around them, they are better equipped to navigate the challenges and complexities of the modern world.

Author – Mandvi Tripathi, Principal, Lucknow International Public School, Lucknow

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Weaving a Tapestry of Well-being

Each day in a homeroom begins with SEL Circles that help all children feel loved and encouraged while creating stronger relationships between peers

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We make WELL-BEING a priority at Fazlani L’Academie Globale, and it matters even more in the wake of the pandemic. Research shows that schools can be places that can develop social and emotional skills vital to learning and motivate students to lead healthy lifestyles.

At Fazlani L’Academie Globale, we ensure the environments that surround students and families provide and promote good physical and mental health. The Wellness Committee comprising ambassadors from the learning community (leadership, parents, teachers, and students), plays a vibrant role in creating classrooms where all students can thrive.

Our “BE WELL” program in Early and Primary Schools aims at creating a culture of social-emotional learning by engaging and empowering students to develop and maintain healthy habits through a kaleidoscope of learning experiences.

The CASEL wheel of five components supports the learning and development of SEL at school.

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  1.     Self-awareness is having a clear and accurate understanding of our strengths, and challenges and recognizing emotions.
  2.    Self-management is taking responsibility for our own choices to work towards goals. using self-control, good work habits, and managing emotions.
  3.    Social awarenessis developing empathy, and celebrating our differences as we live in a social world.
  4.    Relationship skillsinvolve building healthy relationships, effective communication, and teamwork as we work with peers.
  5.    Responsible decision-makingis using conflict resolution to solve problems, developing healthy habits, and owning choices.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is at the heart of the school program and helps increase self-awareness, academic achievement, and positive behaviors both in and out of the classroom. Each day in a homeroom begins with SEL Circles that help all children feel loved and encouraged while creating stronger relationships between peers. Joyful July, Awesome August, and Soulful September witnessed mood walks, wellness choice boards, and global collaboration with the Grow with Gratitude program.

A 5th grader expressed, “I have learned to handle my conflicts and emotions because of the calmness routines and Mindful Mondays.”

A grade 2 Parent expressed, “So off late; I am also eating mindfully and teaching my child to express gratitude before going to bed. “Thank you for Soulful September.

The monthly SEL calendar echoes Mindful Mondays, Thankful Tuesdays, Wellness Wednesdays, Thoughtful Thursdays, and Friendly Fridays, which provide opportunities for students and parents to choose from a variety of everyday experiences, to be active, connect, keep learning, and take notice of the world around them and their feelings.

An essential ingredient of SEL at school is professional development. The Friendly Fridays also become virtual coolers for teaching teams as we practice shared SEL routines that are taken back into the classroom. Happy teachers make happy communities.

We have also created a site where we post all the SEL that has made a difference to our classroom practices. The site serves as a window to best SEL practices for new staff and ongoing reflection on creating an inclusive school that supports all learners. The Muskaan Project is another thread of the SEL program and aims to create an inclusive culture. Under this project, the school recently:

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The PYP Leadership team led a community summit leading a short module on Social-Emotional learning for faculty in public schools, driving the idea of compassion over content in their schools. The PYP Spirit Day had students engaged with street children from a local shelter and organized a day of fun and games at school.

“SELebrate You” an SEL flea was led by the primary year students for the parent community and teachers from the IB PYP Network in Mumbai. A variety of interactive centers challenged the community to check their emotions and well-being.

Some of the centers are listed below:

  • Calming Zone
  • A warm cup of words
  • Heart Maps
  • Edible Emotion Cookies
  • A Pinwheel of Hope
  • Worry Dolls
  • Puppet Theatre
  • Magical Mandalas
  • Wishing Wall

We need to move away from the idea that SEL is just one class in the day or week, it needs to be embedded in the entire curriculum and become an integral part of all learning and teaching at school.

What does SEL look like in your learning communities and how can we continue to champion SEL in our schools?

Author – Mahera Goel, Principal Early and Elementary School, Fazlani L’Academie Globale, Mumbai 

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Supporting Students’ Well-Being: Integrating SEL into the Curriculum

Many educational institutions have integrated SEL instruction and programs into their curricula to equip students with these priceless abilities

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“Social and Emotional Learning,” abbreviated as “SEL,” refers to how people cultivate their social and emotional capabilities. Teaching kids these abilities is an integral part of social and emotional learning (SEL), which may be accomplished in schools via various approaches, including traditional classroom education, experiential learning, and counseling services.

Students will be equipped with the skills necessary to regulate their emotions, cultivate meaningful relationships, and make responsible choices due to implementing SEL in educational settings. This helps children do better in school and sets them up for future success in all aspects of their lives.

Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relational skills, and responsible decision-making are some of the skills that are often taught via SEL programs in schools. Other skills that are typically taught through SEL programs include social awareness. Developing these abilities is essential for students because they assist them in overcoming obstacles that may arise in their personal lives and academic careers.

It has been shown that the implementation of SEL in schools has a beneficial effect on children’s academic and social results. It can potentially promote educational attainment, improve attendance and eliminate behavioural issues. In addition, it may assist children in developing a feeling of belonging and connection to the community they are a part of at their school.

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Many educational institutions have integrated SEL instruction and programs into their curricula to equip students with these priceless abilities. These programs may be incorporated into established classes or presented as stand-alone educational opportunities. Students needing more help developing their social and emotional skills may be eligible for counselling services from their schools. SEL has the potential to assist all children and adults in achieving personal and academic success, forming and sustaining healthy relationships, becoming lifelong learners, and making constructive contributions to a more compassionate and fairer world. “Social and emotional learning” (SEL) refers to a fundamental component of formal education and overall human growth. SEL is a critical component of student development, and it has been shown to improve academic performance, reduce behavioural problems, and promote positive relationships.

To implement SEL at our school, we can start by introducing the SEL curriculum in all classrooms. This curriculum can include lessons on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Teachers can incorporate activities and discussions related to these topics in their daily lessons and provide opportunities for students to practice and develop these skills.

We can also establish SEL-focused extracurricular activities, such as peer mentoring or community service projects, which can provide students with additional opportunities to develop their social and emotional skills.

Furthermore, we can organize workshops for teachers, counselors, and other staff members to learn about SEL and how to integrate it into their work with students. This will help us ensure all staff members have the knowledge and skills to support student development.

Finally, we can involve parents and guardians in the SEL implementation process by sharing information about SEL and how they can support their children’s development of social and emotional skills at home.

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Implementing SEL at Kunwar’s Global School benefits our students and enhances their academic and personal success.

Author – Dr. Dheeraj Mehrotra, Principal, Kunwar’s Global School, Lucknow

 

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Building Empathy and Understanding in Classroom

Cognitive empathy involves understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings, and emotional empathy involves sharing another person’s emotions

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Fostering deeper connections and creating an ecology of trust, and empathy helps students understand and communicate better.

In a world moving ahead at lightning speed, creating a conducive classroom setting is vital where students learn to empathize and understand one another. Building empathy and understanding in the classroom fosters creativity and creates a pool of extremely agile yet sensitive students who are intelligent, brave, and know the fine line between leadership and arrogance.

Students can develop social skills and emotional intelligence that will serve them well. In this article, we shall explore the meaning of empathy and why it is important to have innately rooted in one another.

What is Empathy?

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Empathy involves a deep understanding and sharing of the feelings of one another. It is a complex cognitive and emotional process that allows us to connect with others on a deep level.

Cognitive empathy involves understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings, and emotional empathy involves sharing another person’s emotions.

How Can We Build a Pool of Empathetic Students?

To build and understand relationships among students, we need to take them through the best outcomes of it. Let’s say we make them aware that kindness is key to getting help in the toughest of times, it is your people that matter the most and helps you succeed in your goals, and how better person we become as we embrace feelings of empathy for one another, that’s when we can create an ecology of learners keen to help and trust each other.

By learning to empathize with one another, students can develop stronger connections and better communicate their thoughts and feelings.

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Importance of Empathy in Building Classroom Relationships

Empathy is a critical component of building understanding and relationships in the classroom. When students are able to empathize, they collaborate effectively and resolve conflicts positively. They appreciate differences and form meaningful connections with their peers.

Students who feel understood and valued by their peers are more likely to feel safe and supported in the classroom, which can lead to better academic performance and overall well-being.

Benefits of Building Empathy and Understanding in the Classroom

From improved academic performances to improved cognitive and emotional competencies, building empathy and understanding in the classroom can have numerous benefits for students, teachers, and the classroom community as a whole.

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• Improved Communication

When students learn to empathize with one another, they are better able to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in a positive manner. This can lead to more productive classroom discussions, better teamwork, and more successful learning outcomes.

• Increased Diversity and Inclusion

Building empathy and understanding fosters a diverse and inclusive classroom environment. By appreciating and respecting differences, students can feel more valued and accepted.

• Higher Academic Achievement

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Students who feel safe and supported in the classroom are more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn. This can lead to higher academic achievement and better outcomes for all students.

• Enhanced Social Skills

Empathy is a critical component of social skills and emotional intelligence. By building empathy and understanding in the classroom, students can develop stronger social skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

A study published in the journal “Educational Psychology Review” found that programs that focus on building empathy and social skills can lead to improved academic achievement, higher levels of social competence, and better mental health outcomes.

Strategies for Building Empathy and Understanding in the Classroom

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From creating a safe bubble for students to inspiring them to interact and perform group-based tasks, there’s plenty we can do to shape students who are passionate & compassionate!

• Create a Safe & Supportive Environment

A safe learning environment is essential for building empathy and understanding. Teachers can have clear expectations for behavior and create a positive classroom culture that promotes respect and inclusion.

• Fostering Empathy and Understanding Among Students

Teachers must inspire students to share their experiences and perspectives, promote active listening skills, and encourage students to see situations from different viewpoints.

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• Modeling Empathetic Behaviour for Students
Teachers can model empathetic behavior by being responsive to students’ needs, demonstrating active listening skills, and showing understanding of students’ emotions and experiences.

Role of Music in Building Empathy

Music can play a significant role in developing empathy in students. Music empowers you to evoke emotions, create connections, and promote understanding of others’ experiences, which can enhance students’ empathy.

1. Creating Emotional Connections: Music has the ability to evoke emotions in listeners. Students can connect emotionally with the music, which can help them understand the emotions that others experience, thus enhancing their ability to empathize with others.
2. Promoting Understanding of Diversity: Music is a universal language transcending cultural and linguistic barrier. By exposing students to diverse musical traditions and styles, they can learn about the cultural and social contexts in which music is created, helping them understand and appreciate different perspectives and experiences.
3. Fostering Collaboration: Learning music often involves collaboration, as students must work together to create and perform music. Through this process, they can learn to listen to others, work together, and appreciate each other’s contributions, promoting understanding among students.
4. Encouraging Reflection: Music can encourage reflection and self-awareness. By listening to and creating music, students can develop a sound understanding of emotions and experiences.

Building empathy and understanding in the classroom is essential for creating a positive and supportive learning environment that benefits all students. By implementing strategies and overcoming common challenges, teachers can help their students develop the social and emotional skills they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

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Author – Dharini Upadhyaya, Co-founder, Furtados School of Music, Mumbai

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Mathematics Education: Moving Beyond the Idea of Abstraction

The current syllabus-based approach to teaching mathematics often focuses on abstract concepts without providing students with a clear understanding of how these concepts fit into the larger picture

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For many years, mathematics has been viewed as an abstract subject, one that is only accessible to a select few.  However, this perception is flawed, and it is time to move beyond the idea of abstraction in mathematics education.

To begin with, it is essential to acknowledge that mathematics deals with concepts that are not inherently abstract. Numbers, functions, and geometric shapes are all tangible objects that we encounter in our daily lives. It is only when we begin to delve deeper into these concepts that they may become a little bit abstract. However, this does not mean that mathematics, as a whole, is an abstract subject.

Furthermore, the idea that mathematical concepts may not have a direct connection to real-life scenarios is also flawed. The opposite is true. To make mathematics more accessible to students, we should use real-life scenarios and examples to help students understand the mathematical concepts they are learning. By doing so, we can help students connect abstract concepts to concrete, tangible examples.

For instance, consider the following example: a carpenter needs to determine the length of a diagonal brace for a structure. By using the Pythagorean theorem, the carpenter can calculate the length of the brace based on the measurements of the other sides of the structure. This demonstrates how mathematical concepts can be applied to real-world scenarios.

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It is also important to note that mathematical concepts do not exist in isolation. Instead, they are part of a larger system of interconnected ideas. By showing students how these concepts fit into a larger framework, we can help them understand the relevance and importance of what they are learning. This can help to break down the perception of mathematics as an abstract subject and make it more approachable for all students.

Another significant factor contributing to the perception of mathematics as an abstract subject is the existing mathematics education system. The current syllabus-based approach to teaching mathematics often focuses on abstract concepts without providing students with a clear understanding of how these concepts fit into the larger picture. Instead, we should adopt a more modelling and animation-based approach that can explain any known mathematical concept through models and animations.

In response to these challenges, we have developed a novel approach to teaching mathematics – DassMath. The new technique comprises a few tools that can convert any mathematical concept into geometrical shapes. Three broad tools/steps comprise the “DassMath”: Plotting graphs in MS Excel, Matrix Multiplication for Transformations, and Creating Animation. These common tools can be used in solving any problems in any sphere of life. By utilizing these tools, we can show students how mathematical concepts fit into real-world scenarios and make mathematics more approachable.

As an example, consider the image which demonstrates how a transformation matrix can be used to reflect a geometric shape across a line. This not only shows the practical application of matrix multiplication but also helps students understand how mathematical concepts can be used to solve real-world problems.

In conclusion, it is time to move beyond the idea of abstraction in mathematics education. By using real-life scenarios and examples, showing students how mathematical concepts fit into a larger framework, and adopting a more modelling and animation-based approach to teaching, we can help to break down the perception of mathematics as an abstract subject and make it more approachable for all students. It is time to shift the narrative and recognize that mathematics is a tangible subject that can be understood and enjoyed by everyone.

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Author – Chanchal Dass, FIE, Founder and Chairman, Dass Scientific Research Labs Private Limited Ahmedabad, Gujarat

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SEL in the Classroom: Strategies for Successful Integration into Curriculum

Man is a social and gregarious animal and therefore we need to get along with family, friends, neighbors, etc – if nothing – learn to go along to get along.

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Today, there is a lot of talk about social and emotional skills; there are talks, seminars, podcasts, etc—what needs to be taught and how and when. Of course, everything has to be taught in schools; parents have no time – they are working from home / from the office so the duty falls on the teacher almost entirely as does the blame if something is not learned. SEL doesn’t work that way. Unlike subjects, these skills are very cultural, flexible, and contextual but in whichever age or society we live in there are some basic skills we need to have. Man is a social and gregarious animal and therefore we need to get along with family, friends, neighbors, etc – if nothing – learn to go along to get along.

Having said that what do we as teachers need to teach, at what stage should they be taught and how do we ensure that what we teach makes sense to the children and therefore is learned?

Among the social skills, communication needs to be given top priority. Rather than making a boring list of skills I would like to be specific, brief, and precise. Speaking could be subdivided into skills to discern what to speak and what not to speak for example. As a rule, it is linked to empathy but before that recognizing one’s own and other’s feelings is also linked to honesty. A thumb rule- if you think what you are about to say will hurt the other person’s feelings, keep your thoughts to yourself.

After the what, comes how to say—one has to be honest but need not be brutally so. So, this is linked to tact and diplomacy without being dishonest or unnecessarily flattering.

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Then comes when to say what you want to say—judging the appropriacy of time is important too. This is linked to patience and sensitivity.

Very often, especially in our country, listening is not considered a skill. Kids are encouraged to talk to “gain confidence” but never taught to shut up and listen. They are growing up with a lot of noise surrounding them –of various kinds. This leads to narcissism and an undue notion of self-importance. So, listening develops respect for other’s thoughts and opinions, refection, tolerance, and acceptance of diversities, respect for others’ knowledge and experiences, etc

Emotional skills deal primarily with recognizing and admitting one’s own feelings and therefore those of others. Culturally we do not encourage kids to show or express their emotions—partly because as adults we ourselves do not know how to deal with feelings—we have hardly been taught and we have very few words in the vernacular to express the myriads of feelings. So, feelings are very often suppressed. This is somehow in my opinion inextricably linked to values like courtesy, integrity, gratitude, respect for elders, helpfulness, respect for the disabled and underprivileged, respecting boundaries and personal space, justice, ability to take a No—the list goes on—it is never exhaustive as I said it keeps changing and we need to be flexible as to the degree it can be enforced. At some stage, we must allow kids to make their own choices.

I am reminded of two very apt pieces I have read- one is a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte-Children Learn What They Live. The other is a book ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. They both talk about everything there needs to be said on the above topic. I will nevertheless attempt to explain how some of these can be taught.

Let me start by saying that it is no longer a ‘Do as I say”-it is a ‘Do as I do” world and I think rightly so. Today kids starting from the KG classes need to understand the why of everything.

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So, as they undertake individual or group play they can be taught fair play, sharing, patience to wait for one’s turn for toys, etc, talking softly, saying sorry if they have unintentionally hurt another, saying thank you for receiving something, putting things back, perseverance to complete a job, doing things as best as they can and so on. They also learn not to take things that do not belong to them.

They learn empathy when another child is hurt and is crying, learn what the teachers are doing to comfort him/ her, they also can subconsciously learn words to describe some feelings upon which they can build.

In Class they can be taught to speak one at a time- patience, consideration for others, respect for the teacher—how to show that respect and why, hoping this will be extended to the older family members at home. They can be taught to ask for things politely and a zillion other thing.

Certain aspects of behavior are very cultural like standing up when a teacher enters and wishing them, not touching each other, appropriacy of clothes which is steadily merging with that of the West, revealing clothes for example, modesty is very Indian. According to me, we can teach the Indian way and as the kids grow older be allowed to make their own choices based on the society they move with. Celebrations are also very cultural and Indian.

Now I shall mention some issues in the teaching of both communication skills and social and emotional skills. There is no clear consensus among the parents themselves and/or teachers themselves as to what is the right thing to teach. They are very often confused. Hence that confusion is passed on to the kids. Sometimes it is ok not to stand up when the teacher enters the class- some insist- some don’t, some are ‘friends’ with the kids’ others are strictly teachers and so are the parents. Parents and teachers can only be friendly with kids-they can never be their friends. The issue is that they have blurry lines as boundaries – and when kids cross that boundary, the parents and teachers are offended not realizing they are the ones that did not define the boundaries.

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So, in India the issues in teaching social and emotional skills are many, and as long as the migration of people back and forth to the West and East continues and inter-marriages continue, there is going to be a constant fluid state and this transient stage is what we will have to live with for some decades till the cultures merge and stabilize.

Children Learn What They Live—by Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,

They learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,

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They learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule,

They learn to be shy.

If children live with shame,

They learn to feel guilty.

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If children live with encouragement,

They learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,

They learn to be patient.

If children live with praise,

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They learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance,

They learn to love.

If children live with approval,

They learn to like themselves.

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If children live with honesty,

They learn truthfulness.

If children live with security,

They learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness,

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They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

The author Robert Fulghum very nicely says – ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.

 Author – Bhavani Raghunandan, Director, Vidya Mandir Sss, Chennai

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Innovative Solutions: Using Ed-Tech to Enhance SEL Skills and Promote Student Success

With SEL practices come opportunities for students to learn some of the most important social-emotional skills, like self-awareness, goal setting, social awareness, and more

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As many teachers know, there’s always some new form of pedagogy to implement in teaching to improve learning outcomes for students. As an educator in Sunbeam Ballia, our faculty learned a whole lot about social-emotional learning, which many in the education world now refer to simply as SEL. I discovered this pedagogy to be extremely important for me while educating diverse sets of students. While students learn many intellectual skills in the classroom, that impact can plateau without a strong social-emotional core.

Technology can help students be more comfortable sharing their experiences. For example, our students can create a video diary to document their daily activities and reflect on their emotions and reactions to different situations. Using tools such as Flip to record a reflection, or capturing ideas using Canva or Adobe Creative, or Cloud Express to create visual representations of their emotions or design a timeline of their progress and set goals, can help. Digital tools such as Kahoot, Quizizz, and Google Forms help create self-assessment quizzes for students. With these tools, students can self-assess their knowledge, skills, and attitudes and receive authentic, meaningful, and timely feedback on their performance.

Creating digital portfolios with tools like Spaces EDU, Book Creator, and other similar tools allows students to explore the evidence of the work they have done. This shifts their focus to the process of learning itself. Finally, personalized learning plans through choice boards, class playlists, or HyperDocs lead to increased student engagement, improved self-awareness, and greater metacognition, and give students more control over their learning.

There are many benefits of social-emotional learning, including helping students learn to work as part of a team, helping them manage their own emotions in the classroom, and helping them build stronger connections to their school work among others.

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With SEL practices come opportunities for students to learn some of the most important social-emotional skills, like self-awareness, goal setting, social awareness, and more. And, when adding educational technologies in the school, they can unlock new sets of benefits and expand the power of SEL.

Expressing emotions in a social setting – The connection between SEL and technology, when you think about it, is a fairly logical one. This is because students can create more authentic learning when they use tech tools in a real way. Linking instructional content to both their emotions and using technology helps make the content much more real. It also generally results in students showing greater amounts of interest and passion.

Tech Enhances Social-Emotional Learning – Though not commonly associated with social-emotional learning and social and emotional skills, students can certainly learn other relevant skills through SEL experiences. These include skills like persistence, practicing empathy, problem-solving, and redesigning experiments to overcome previous failed attempts. Particularly when educational technology comes into play, the ability to persist through failures can take a lot of different routes. Besides this, technology can align with SEL in a few different ways. Students may start to connect more deeply with academic content and develop more meaningful intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships. Not only is there potential for EdTech incorporation to make SEL more meaningful, but there’s also potential for it to help students learn key 21st-century skills in the process.

Teachers can use various tools to better understand how students are doing with SEL skill development and their overall mindsets. They can try formative assessments or capture other forms of data to show students how they can improve. This is especially useful if they exhibit negative behavior at any point ( but, educators can also track positive behavior).

Surprising SEL tools for the classroom

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Other forms of technology can also help students manage their emotions throughout the day. Devices like smartwatches, for example, can track stress by measuring key physiological indicators and relay that feedback to teachers. They can then use that information to offer an alternative option for those students. Technologies like virtual and augmented reality are also viable in situations like this. If teachers sense a student is frustrated, stressed out, or anxious, specialized VR content can help them return to their comfort zone. AR or VR can immerse students in deep breathing exercises, for example, redirecting their entire focus until they’re okay. Essentially, it all comes back to making sure students are functioning at a high level socially and emotionally. Then, they can get the most out of learning with help from technology.

Students can use digital platforms, like Flipgrid or Wakelet, to share their thoughts or new things they’ve learned on important topics. By voicing real emotions, they can better connect with the content, their peers, and themselves—the main goals of SEL.

The Social-Emotional Learning Foundation in Different Subjects

One way to bring technology into social-emotional learning is when teaching public speaking. Many children (and adults) get nervous about public speaking, so educators can use this as an opportunity to help students manage those emotions. One example is teachers using a microphone in class and handing it to students when they have a question. This helps them feel more comfortable in class discussions or when answering questions. And, this added real-world relevance can help them overcome fears of speaking in front of an audience. Another way to help is by making time for students to self-reflect. Many social-emotional skills have to do with self-improvement and things students can do on their own. Reflecting on, recognizing, and recording examples of positive behavior can help them build on what they did right.

Using Robotics for Education and SEL

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Finally, educational robotics has shown promising results as a technology that helps with social-emotional development in kids. Particularly when students have social or language disorders, they can use various educational robotics tools to communicate by programming the robot to say certain messages or execute certain actions that indicate how they’re feeling.

Author – Arpita Singh, Principal, Sunbeam School, Ballia, UP

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Connecting through Technology: How Edtech Can Facilitate Social and Emotional Learning

Technology has always been given a negative image, especially for children but when used in the right ways it can do wonders for us and more for our children

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The purpose of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is to help students build relevant connections in and beyond the classrooms. Initially, SEL was considered just another branch of instruction, however, it has now gained momentum as there are lifestyle changes around children. Emotional connections, empathy, self-awareness, and communication are skills that students miss out on due to the unavailability of family attention, lack of interaction, and more.

This directly affects their ability to make connections when they grow up, to have their voice, or expand their minds. SEL can be achieved through non-tech activities like group discussions, guided learning activities, storytelling and more but introducing tech into the classroom takes it to the next level.

Technology and emotions are probably never going to be on the same side for anyone. What’s technical cannot have emotions and vice versa as we have always believed.

Technology has always been given a negative image, especially for children but when used in the right ways it can do wonders for us and more for our children.

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It is undeniable that the next generation will continue to use technology for everything. From waking up to sleeping through apps is how they’d probably go through life. With technology being such an important part of our lives, it only makes sense that we accept that NOW technology probably plays a vital role in developing our emotions too, or at least it has the power to influence our emotions. It is now our choice to leverage it or to consider it as a boon entirely.

I would pick my side of leveraging technology because let’s accept that tech is here to stay! We need to make the most out of it for our children to enhance their Social Emotional, Cognitive, or even physical Learning. One of the greatest benefits technology gives us is “freedom”. Freedom to customize a student’s learning journey according to their interests, and what they actually care about leads to greater engagement levels and ultimately achieves greater results.

Using technology in our classrooms through smart boards, smart toys, cameras, and learning platforms can help students learn collaboration, communication, and sometimes even frustration. Although education technologies aren’t capable of replacing human interaction, they can make those interactions more meaningful and help enhance learning experiences for students through continuous targeted assessments.

For example, using smart boards for storytelling in preschool classrooms can lead to a longer engagement for students followed by quick assessments and auto-generated feedback. This not just reduces the workload for teachers but also gives a far-more detailed analysis. The use of technology, however, has to be balanced especially in preschool so students are not exposed to screens too much. It can be designed into a daily schedule where a fixed hour for story-telling is done through smart boards. Technology can help us make them familiar with phonetic sounds, images, and experiences with no hassle.

Connecting student emotions with technology and enhancing their experience can help us achieve their developmental goals quicker and more efficiently. A student dealing with a tech app in the classroom learns about sharing, asking for help, collaborating with his peers, and creating value with a more futuristic approach through technology.

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Problem-solving can also be addressed through smart tools popularly used in robotics which lead to cognitive development in students. Robotics helps students understand complex problems and come up with creative solutions on their own. Particularly when students have social or language disorders, they can use various educational robotics tools to communicate by programming the robot to say certain messages or execute certain actions that indicate how they’re feeling. Technology can help in tracking progress and engaging them by giving guidance and feedback. Another way technology helped us was communication through apps like Zoom or skype. Students can talk to their friends who are traveling during holidays and know their experiences, in turn, develop their communication skills.

While technology is still daunting for most teachers, especially in low-budget schools in our country, it has still made its way to our classrooms through YouTube or Pinterest for starters. Educators are increasingly benefitted from these apps to learn activities that could help in the social and emotional development of their students. However, we still have a long way to go. Educators need to first understand why social-emotional learning is important and then how technology is such a brilliant tool to help them connect better with their students. The lack of training for teachers makes them fear technology and consider it an additional burden which is not true.

Technology has made its way into all classrooms even in rural areas but the challenge now is how to use it effectively which can only be resolved through teacher training and awareness.

Author – Ankita Pareek, Director, EDuBrain Schools & Softel Educare Pvt Ltd.

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Whole-Child Education: Approaches to Develop SEL Competencies in Students

Students who are equipped to deal with problems that affect them on a personal level are then better able to navigate the pressures of adult life

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Today’s world is ever-diversifying with people having different religions, beliefs, capabilities, etc. One should be equipped with certain skills to adjust well in today’s world. The classroom is the place where children are first exposed to humans who hail from a range of different backgrounds, hold differing beliefs, and have unique capabilities. Classrooms should aim at the holistic development of students to make them productive, self-aware, and socially aware citizens. SEL or Social- Emotional Learning aims at the same.

SEL is a methodology by which students are helped to understand and feel their emotions and not only learn empathy, self-regulation, persistence, self-awareness, and mindfulness but demonstrate as well. These learned skills help students take positive, responsible decisions, make positive relationships with others, and create a framework to achieve their goals.

SEL involves five core competencies that can be applied in the classroom, at home, and in students’ communities. These five core competencies are:
1. Self-awareness: the ability to identify and assess your thoughts, feelings, and values, as well as how they intersect with your behaviors
2. Self-management: the ability to not only identify but regulate emotions, thoughts, and actions
3. Responsible decision-making: the ability to make positive, constructive choices about your behavior
4. Social awareness: the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, as well as learn social and ethical behavior
5. Relationship skills: the ability to get along and make meaningful connections with people in their life.

Here are some approaches to teaching these five skills to students

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Self-Awareness

Self-awareness can be developed by:
a) Mindfulness Meditation – a Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present and accept one’s circumstances. It is a self-awareness skill that can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. To teach mindfulness in class, put on a guided meditation recording or read one aloud to your students. Encourage them to put their thoughts and feelings aside and focus on the meditation as much as they can. For younger students, simpler breathing exercises can be tried to help them develop mindfulness.
b) Reflective Writing – Reflective writing helps students develop self-awareness, empathy, and compassion. Students can be given five to ten minutes during a period (especially in languages) to write about a prompt that encourages self-reflection. By practicing reflective writing every day, students can
learn to consider their thoughts and feelings in a self-aware way. Here are a few prompts that encourage self-analysis:
When was the happiest moment in your life? Why was it so happy?
What is your wildest dream?
Who is your best friend and how does he/she make you feel?
Why is kindness important?
What things do you like and dislike about yourself and why?

Self-Management
a) Self-Management Party Games – There are many popular children’s games through which children can be taught how to regulate their behaviors. Turn on some music, sort children into groups, and play any of these well-known games that model self-management:
• Musical Chairs • Follow the Leader • Red Rover • Wait Five • Simon Says
After playing these games, bring your students back together for a class discussion on what they learned about listening and being respectful to others.
b) SMART Goal Challenge – In social and emotional learning, self-motivation is an essential component. This activity helps students learn self-management. At the beginning of the month or quarter, work with each student to set a SMART goal for themselves which should be Specific, Measurable, Agreed-Upon, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Observe your students several times throughout the month to measure their progress and support them if any challenges arise.

Responsible Decision-Making
a) Class Contract – Class Contracts can help students develop responsible decision-making. Putting a contract together with your students will surely make them feel that their voices are heard and they are listened to. To make this activity interesting and exciting for students, treats, and rewards for meeting academic goals can be included.
b) Student Council – Teachers should involve their entire class in the student council. By bringing your students to a platform to discuss classroom needs and upcoming events and to take appropriate decisions, the whole class can be involved in the responsible decision-making process.

Social Awareness
a) Classroom Service Projects – Service activities connect students to the world around them in a fun and meaningful way. Through classroom service activities when they help others, students develop empathy. Here are a few service project ideas:
• Donate clothing and books to nearby slum areas or underprivileged communities.
• Visit a local nursing home or an orphanage.
• Clean up litter around your school or in a nearby area.
• Raise money for your school or a charity through a bake sale
b) Diversity Story Time – Teaching diversity in the classroom is an essential component of social awareness. During read-aloud story times, the teacher must keep in mind that stories should be about people of different cultures, races/ethnicities, religions, and other backgrounds. After reading one of these books to your students, discuss how differences make the world a better place and ask what they learned from the story.

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Relationship Skills
a) Team Puzzle Game – To play this game, divide your students into teams of three to five and give each one a jigsaw puzzle to put together. Then instruct them to complete the puzzle by working together as a group. To encourage teamwork and add challenge, give your students a time limit for completing the puzzle. When students work together, even younger grades can put together complex puzzles. Your students will be amazed by how much they can get done with a little collaboration.
b) Fairy Tale Read-alongs – Conflict resolution is a skill that helps students throughout their lives to develop and keep better relationships. Fairy tale read-along can help your class learn this skill. Choose a beloved fairy tale to read as a class, like Union Is Strength, Goldilocks, the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As you read the story to your students, ask them the following questions:
What is this story’s main conflict?
How can the characters work together to make everyone happy?

Students who are equipped to deal with problems that affect them on a personal level are then better able to navigate the pressures of adult life. When educators are able to see which students do not grasp the core pillars of SEL, they can better work with them at an early age and help these students develop better self-control, empathy, and other positive qualities. Learning positive behaviors that extend beyond a purely academic level of achievement can help these students develop the “soft skills” required of many jobs, such as teamwork, and ability to understand others, and problem-solving. This can help set these students up for success throughout their school years and beyond.

Author – Aman Kumar Kanwar, Principal, Director, MBLMIS Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

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Building Stronger Communities: Approaches to Developing SEL Competencies in Students

One way to foster empathy and understanding in the classroom is to create a safe and inclusive learning environment

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Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world. – Barack Obama

Empathy is on the decline and is a matter to worry about. The modern world is a world full of people whose actions and reactions are often self-interest motivated. The incidents of road rage, honor killing, communal riots, and terror attacks are on the rise and display a dark side of society with less or no empathy at all.

As a principal, I believe that building empathy and understanding in the classroom is critical to creating a positive and inclusive learning environment. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and the ability to comprehend the perspectives and experiences of others. When students develop these skills, they become better equipped to navigate the complexities of the world around them and are more likely to build strong relationships with others.

One way to foster empathy and understanding in the classroom is to create a safe and inclusive learning environment. Teachers can encourage open and respectful communication by modeling it themselves, and by setting clear expectations for behavior and language. They can also incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences into the curriculum, and provide opportunities for students to learn from each other through group projects and discussions.

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Another way to build empathy is to incorporate experiential learning opportunities, such as service-learning projects, that allow students to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and communities. These types of experiences can help students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the challenges and experiences of others.

Teachers should create an environment where all students feel valued, respected, and included. This can be achieved by setting clear expectations for behavior, modeling positive interactions, and addressing incidents of bullying or exclusion promptly. They should encourage students to consider different perspectives by asking them to put themselves in the shoes of others. This could involve asking students to write from the perspective of a character in a book, or to role-play different scenarios, including collaborative learning activities, group discussions, and projects that require students to work together to achieve a common goal. By providing these opportunities, teachers can help students develop important social and emotional skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Teachers can teach students conflict resolution skills such as compromise, and negotiation, which will help students to develop the skills they need to navigate disagreements and build positive relationships with others.

Teachers can teach students to be active listeners by encouraging them to ask questions, paraphrase what they’ve heard, and reflect on what they’ve learned. This helps students to build deeper connections with their peers and develop stronger communication skills.

Additionally, schools can support the development of empathy and understanding by implementing programs that promote social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL programs provide students with the tools and resources they need to develop important skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and responsible decision-making. These programs can include curriculum-based lessons, school-wide initiatives, and counseling services.

Practicing mindfulness is very important. Schools can have Yoga sessions for a positive environment. The learners can be involved in community outreach programs. Surroundings cleaning drives can be conducted. Activities to minimize the wastage of resources and their conservation must be an integral part of their learning experience.

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In summary, the role of schools and teachers in building empathy and understanding in the classroom is critical for creating a positive learning environment that supports the social and emotional development of students. By modeling empathy and understanding, providing opportunities for students to engage with one another, and implementing SEL programs, teachers and schools can help students develop the skills they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

Author – Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi

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