Early Lessons in Relationships for MLC School Girls
Posted: 29 July 2019
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
- Sense of responsibility
- Self awareness
MLC Junior School has introduced ‘URSTRONG’, an emotional wellbeing program which aims to enable students to overcome obstacles that arise within relationships with their peers, as well as to teach our girls how to forge and maintain successful relationships.
Relationships are important and underpin so many aspects of our lives. Learning positive and effective interpersonal skills begins when we are very young and needs to be taught and develop over time. As we are an all-girl school, the importance of relationship skills is amplified as many girls place considerable emphasis on friendships. Furthermore, by developing strong relationship skills in the primary school / tween years, it sets the students up with the skills they require when they transition into secondary school / teenager years and beyond.
The curriculum aim to teach children a common language for confidently managing conflict and creating a culture rooted in respect and kindness and what is normal in a friendship and how to overcome obstacles in their relationships with peers.
The success of this program is due to the ‘whole community’ support and good communication. We would not have the success we have experienced in such a short time if it was not for our parents and guardians. We opted as a School to engage and educate our parents and guardians from day one.
As the program was beginning to be introduced to the girls, it coincided with a parent information session that the girls also attend. Weeks prior to our parent information session, the School started communicating to the parent community about the relationships program and in doing so, answered these simple, yet important questions; What is happening? Why is it happening? How it is happening? Whom is going to make it happen?
For the final question of ‘whom’, I made it very clear that this program will not be fully successful if they, the parents, were not involved and fully participant. I also made it clear that whilst learning about literacy and numeracy is important, it’s equally important to learn about social skills.
We received almost a perfect parent attendance – it exceeded all our expectations. Since that session and with the implementation of the program, parents have not stopped saying thank you!
Students and parents took part in a variety of activities together throughout the evening, from fun role-play with teddy bears to practising how to put out ‘Friendship Fires’, or conflict resolution, by voicing their feelings. The girls explored four key friendship facts which encourages students to directly face any friendship issues they may experience, outlined techniques and phrases for students to use when dealing with conflict:
- No friendship (or relationship) is perfect;
- Every friendship is different;
- Trust and respect are the two most important qualities of a friendship; and
- Friendships change and that’s okay.
Before we decided to embarked on this program, we sent some staff to have a look at this relationship skills program with a critical eye.
Like any new program or intervention, the may sometimes be a ‘dip’ as the school community adjusts to the new ‘normal’. In the case of this relationship program, my experience has not of a ‘dip’ but a ‘peak’, or in other words, a heightened awareness. For example, as part of this program we introduced a ‘Friendship Cottage’ on the playground, where girls may discuss their ‘friendship fires’ if required. On the first day of the Friendship Cottage opening, it looked as if every girl had a friendship fire to discuss as they waited in the cue to enter the cottage!
If you were to ask the students, staff or parents about our ‘Friendship Program’ they would tell you it is one of the best things we have done.
Research shows that whole-school programs are the most effective; starting with the parent-child workshops was the perfect way to introduce a common, consistent approach to the girls, parents, and teachers.
As our girls develop their interpersonal skills, teachers and parents guide them along the way ‘scaffolding’ their learning. I see this like learning to ride a bike. The girls begin with training wheels on their bike, yet the long term goal is for all our girls to be riding full size bikes on their own. In other words, we want all our girls to have their understanding, skills and language to develop strong interpersonal relationships, including working through friendship challenges on their own. This is not a skill just for young children, this is a skill for life. We are already seeing evidence of this as the girls are increasingly working through their ‘friendship fires’ on their own.
- Do your homework;
- Good planning pays dividends;
- Know your community and know program or strategy is best for your families and school;
- Regardless of what you may implement, remember it does indeed take a ‘village to raise a child’;
- Include, communicate with and educate your whole community, including your parents and guardians; and
- The stronger the partnership between home and school, the greater the outcomes are for the children in our care.
Author: Daniel Sandral, Head of Junior School, MLC School Sydney