Taking care of yourself is one of the most important lessons children can learn

A group of voyeuristic young children try to draw attention to a story written by gym teacher Ike van der Zee, 28, on Wednesday morning. ‘sad?’ asks the teacher. “What does a child look like when he is sad?” Children imitate it. Curved, eyes slightly closed, mouth corners down. For even more dramatic effect, a few fists wipe imaginary tears from the corners of your eyes. ‘very well. And what can you say when you see that the child is sad? ‘Are you well?’ He proposes a girl with a long ponytail. “Hold my hand,” muttered one of his schoolmates in pink. and: “Can I help you?” ‘Hey! Do you hear this?’ Van der Zee says with pleasure. “That’s a really good question.”

comfort fish

In 2018, worrying report after report emerged on the mental health of young people and children. The Council on Public Health and Society noted, among other things, that pressure to perform undermines their mental health. “This sparked interest in ways to increase children’s psychological well-being by paying attention to this at school,” said Marlus Klingan, professor of youth mental health promotion. Then the epidemic overtook it and the issue became more urgent.

“You can only learn if you are comfortable with your own skin.”

At Huizinga School in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, the little ones hit the gym every week for lessons on anger, fear, self-confidence, and calm fish. “You can only tell if you feel comfortable with your skin,” Klingan says.

Having examined young children with Van der Zee happy and scared, angry and sad, they are allowed to play freely with friends. The teacher pulled out all the stops: hockey goals, swing ropes, a volleyball net, and some kind of plateau on wheels like wobbly scooters. Before the children are dispersed, they are given a task. ‘To elect? Look around, ‘It seems rather vague. You can do anything, but look at your friend: what does he want? Is he happy? Or maybe sad or angry?

Kids go wild and instantly see the highs and lows. Some couples break down unnoticed. One team celebrates a goal in hockey, and opponents collapse in disappointment. Jaden, the boy with sparkling dark eyes, wants to play volleyball, but his friend sways behind him a bit shyly. “By connecting lessons about emotion and social interactions with exercise, children immediately experience what we are talking about,” Van der Zee sums up the thinking behind these psychology lessons. Jayden seems a little lost in his girlfriend Nora. Now he has his sights set on hockey, but she doesn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for it either. She can’t explain what Nora wants, because she just lived in Holland.

After about ten minutes, the children return to the circle. “Jaden, what did you see happen to Nora?” “A little bit happy, a little angry,” murmured the boy. ‘Angry? Or sad? asks van der Zee. “A little too sad.” ‘Do you know why?’ Deep sigh. “I really don’t know.” ‘Nora might have been a little scared too. She’s new to the class. Jayden nodded in understanding. He himself was happy,’ he says succinctly. ‘Yes. And you had a lot of patience too, sweet Jayden.’

A range of feelings also passed through the other twos. Nader says his friend was angry. “Because, because…,” Yes, why again? ‘Because he lost.’ But then he was happy again. “Well Nader, how good is it to tell you that.”

against bullying

At the beginning of this millennium, interest in socio-emotional learning came from the United States. Educating the whole childbecame the target. So not only interest in language and mathematics, but also sports, creativity, social and emotional development. Since 2015, a school safety law has been in effect in the Netherlands, which obliges schools to do something against bullying – or at least have something on paper about it. Many anti-bullying programs, such as The Peaceful School or Kwink, focus on general social and emotional skills, with the idea that bullying decreases when children feel good about themselves and learn empathy for the other person. Only some of these programs have been checked for effectiveness. Anyway, consistency seems to be the prerequisite for this. Therefore, it is not a one-time lesson package of eight sessions, but socio-emotional learning throughout the entire course of study, at specific times during the week.

Between pride and shyness

During another class on Wednesday with Miss Van der Zee, her adorable Crossfit hoodie hits the green and red high socks she wore in honor of Group 4’s crazy dress day, and she’s against responsibility in the corner of the big gym. Mirror. A boy in skinny jeans stands from the circle and walks hesitantly toward it. He carefully raises his thumb as his eyes cling to Van der Zee. “I trust…” I whispered to him. She stands behind him and folds his hand into a fist with a thumb that raises it to his reflection. knows again. “I trust you, you dare.” With a smile somewhere between pride and fear, he quickly slips between his classmates.

The “problem student” must not learn to deal with the other, but must learn to deal with himself. “

Educator Kees van Overveld describes the approach taken in many schools to “doubtful pupils”: “Children who frequently conflict with others are often described as having been trained in social skills from school.” “The child must learn to deal with rejection or learn to solve problems.” Van Overveld, who earned a Ph.D. in socio-emotional learning at the school, finds this approach not working. The child must learn not to deal with the other, but to learn to deal with himself. In nine out of ten conflicts between children, this is where things go wrong. A child who faces the other with fists or a bright red head, but does not know what to do with these feelings, until he finds a way out through crying or fists.

According to Van Overveld, learning to deal with yourself should form the core of social-emotional learning programmes. This “handling yourself” includes a whole range of emotional skills: recording feelings, understanding where they come from, being able to put into words for them, being bold enough to express those words, and finally regulating those feelings. So don’t knock on the table when your classmate distracts you, but take a breath, check in on yourself and point out that you don’t like being bothered.

On the basis of Van Overveld’s vision, Uitgeverij Kwintessens developed the Kwink teaching method, which is used in the Huizinga School and about seven hundred other schools. Kwink’s Animals guide kids through lessons on argumentation, friendship, self-confidence, and “words of help.” Each topic is discussed for two weeks, concurrently from Group 1 to Group 8, in more depth.

crocodile net

“Just show each other: What do you look like when you find something exciting?” A girl shows him with a high bun and a serious face: her eyes widen and her mouth narrows. “In life you come across new things all the time,” van der Zee says to young children. Jump off a diving board, for example, or say something in the circle. Sometimes these are the things you dare to do and sometimes you find them a little exciting.

Van der Zee begins a movie in which the crocodile Kink, the king of the animal kingdom Kwink, gets nervous, because he has to open a station. He is afraid of confusing his speech and afraid of receiving. Then of course I have to talk to the animals that built the station. What if they don’t love me?

Children are fascinated by this king, although his fears don’t seem to have been taken straight from childhood. Then they saw the messenger, a penguin, explaining a trick to the king. He leads the king to the mirror and orders him to raise his thumb on himself, straighten his shoulders, and encourage himself, as the children did in front of the mirror.

“What is this, self-confidence?” asks van der Zee. “You think you can do that,” replied the girl with a serious look.

I really noticed that these kids had already covered the lesson in class, and Van der Zee would wrap up in relief after that. But at first she leads the kids through all kinds of challenging activities: backward walking, hopping, and dancing. When she claps her hands, everyone stops. Babies point to their chest with a small thumb. “I trust you, I dare you,” he says with more conviction.

Student welfare

Early childhood offers unique opportunities for language acquisition. Do children also master these emotional skills more easily? Van Overveld does not dare to make any statements about it. I think the school context is perfect. Children constantly work with each other and are constantly guided in their own learning process. Reactions to emotion regulation, for example, fit seamlessly into this. Later in life this stagnation. “Frustration, is that how you feel? How do you put words to that?” For example, you never hear a manager’s reaction if someone gets scared during a meeting.

Children from families with financial concerns, for example, experience more stress and this hinders their learning process. So programs that teach them how to deal with these challenges can significantly increase their chances of learning.

It is clear in developmental psychology that children learn best when they feel good about themselves. However, SEL is not included in the curriculum, so it is up to individual schools to give substance to it. Especially now that the Netherlands has poor grades in core subjects such as language, there is a call to go back to the basics and the extras are pressed. ‘Unfortunately, socio-emotional learning is often seen as ‘extra’, says Professor Marlus Klingan of Utrecht University and the Trimbos Institute. ‘Shame.’ And also given the unequal distribution of opportunities in education. Children from families with financial concerns, for example For example, they experience more stress and this can hinder their learning process.So programs that teach them how to deal with these challenges can significantly increase their chances of learning.

But Kleinjan has a serious comment about this call for social-emotional learning at school. “It increases children’s resilience, but if we take their well-being seriously, we must also do something about their environment and the stress for the performance they face.” This begins with the criteria that the Education Inspectorate uses to assess school quality. “Do not just look at performance in math and language and at reconnection and flow, but give weight to what the school is doing on the socio-emotional level and the well-being of the pupils.”

To ensure the children’s privacy and safety in the classroom, the children’s names have been changed.

This version is released with the support of Fonds Special Press Ventures with reference to the website (www.fondsbjp.nl).

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