The Lower School
The Lower School

by Laura Taylor, Lower School Counselor

Thank you for joining us at the Grade Level Coffees. We appreciate your sharing personal observations and experiences and hope that you found it reassuring to hear that others are seeing developmental similarities in their children. Grade Level Coffees are a helpful forum to share supportive tools and strategies with one another and to hear the specific language your children are learning and practicing at school when resolving conflicts and expressing their feelings. In an effort to provide consistency at home, some parents have requested that we share the specific tools and strategies that were discussed at several of the Coffees and reinforced with your children throughout the day.

The Lower School's "6 Steps to Conflict Resolution," which are found in the Family Handbook, are introduced to students in Kindergarten. The steps are:

  1. Calm Down
  2. Use the word "I" to express my feelings
  3. Ask for what I want
  4. Listen and repeat other's feelings
  5. Brainstorm solutions
  6. Make an agreement

Each step is defined, discussed, role-played, and reinforced throughout their years at the Lower School, with the goals of encouraging effective communication and problem solving. Before discussing strategies and examples of each step, students are encouraged to explore and identify the physical sensations they feel at the onset of upset, frustration, and anger, and use these physiological signs and feelings as cues to implement the first step (Calm Down). To initiate the conversation, I share with students that I often feel my chest tighten when I begin to feel upset. Students have then shared that their face gets hot, they feel butterflies in their stomachs, a lump in their throat, or tears behind their eyes. Individual physiological signs may change over time, but this self-awareness is a critical step in understanding ourselves and our needs.

Students in each grade also develop a Class Charter at the beginning of the school year, which is a collaborative process of brainstorming how they want to feel at school, what they will do to ensure that they are able to feel this way, and how they will resolve a situation that might arise where they are not feeling as they had hoped. All students have a voice in the creation of their class charter and, as they define and discuss proposed feelings and ideas in order to narrow the suggestions, their emotional intelligence is strengthened. With all students involved in developing the expectations, they are more invested in following the Charter. Please ask your child(ren) to share their class charter with you, and feel free to stop by to take a look at their creations hanging in their classrooms!

We hope that offering these suggestions is helpful. Our goal is to work as a team to best support your children's academic, social, and emotional development. We encourage you to let your children's teachers know of specific strategies or language that you have found to be particularly helpful at home, so that your efforts can be reinforced during the school day.

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