Teaching with HEART
Since social-emotional well-being directly relates to students' academic achievement, schools should commit to supporting it. This is particularly necessary for adolescents.
Existing school structures rely heavily on school counsellors to accomplish the goal, but it is impossible for a few counsellors to fully address all the social-emotional needs of adolescents.
A creative solution to this problem, already in use in several countries, is a systematic implementation of a student advisory programme.
Student advisory model
In a typical student advisory model, each student in the school is assigned a teacher or staff member to assist the learner to achieve academic and personal goals. A two-pronged approach is applied in the implementation of most student advisory programmes: one-to-one interaction (personal coaching) as well as advisory classes (group coaching).
While the former addresses students' personal issues, i.e., their emotional well-being, the latter takes care of their need to connect positively with their peers.
Just as coaching is important in sports, anything that requires skills-building should involve coaching, including helping adolescents to acquire skills to overcome personal difficulties. Indeed, the approach is often used in adult learning programmes.
The root of most academic problems is social-emotionally-based. Most adolescents have many unanswered questions about life, future, identity, relationships, physical changes, belief system, societal expectations and personal priorities.
At the same time, they detach themselves from their parents and relate more closely with friends who are in a similarly confused state of mind. As such, there is little or no opportunity for an adolescent to engage in constructive conversations with someone more experienced to help her or him make sense of things. A mentor or social skills coach could be most helpful here.
A student advisory programme can offer the kind of emotional and social support needed by adolescents. It can offer every student a specially allocated time to discuss difficult social and academic situations by promoting peer recognition in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
As a result, negative peer pressure and its effects are prevented.
Cost: Commitment only
While a student advisory programme does not cost any money, implementing it requires commitment of the highest degree from every member of the school. A systematic approach to implementation is crucial to its sustainability. If every member of the school does not buy into the idea, the programme will fail.
Successful student counselling programmes have reduced instances of dropouts, substance abuse, indifference toward learning, and other delinquent behaviours among youngsters.
Additionally, it promotes self-esteem, strengthens social-emotional well-being, improves achievement levels and increases the overall accountability in the school.
Optimally, one teacher or staff should be assigned 10 to 12 students. Student advisory times are scheduled during regular school hours because it is a critical part of the curricula.
Different activities could be arranged for students during a student advisory meeting. For example, when students meet their coach as a group, during which times the coach should facilitate, rather than dictate, what is to be done.
Depending on the circumstances, a student adviser may find that he or she may be called upon to be an advocate on behalf of students in her or his group. Other circumstances may require the adviser to hold a forum on a topic of interest to the students.
An adviser may have to nurture cohesiveness within the group by leading community building activities. And of course, advisers should expect that they may need to reinforce academic skills by tutoring their students in an atmosphere that is not as competitive or structured as the classroom environment.
In summary, a supportive advisory programme that is one-on-one and interactive can provide facts and reasoned opinions to troubled youngsters when they are most needed.
Dr Edward Roy Krishnan is the director of strategic planning at Kent Institute, Thailand (http://www.kentthailand.com) and Wells International School (http://www.wells-school.com). He also lectures in the Graduate School of Psychology, Assumption
University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org . To access additional articles by him, visit http://www.affectiveteaching.com .
About the author
- Writer: Edward Roy Krishnan, PHD