Louisville’s CARE For Students Program

POSTED ON BEHALF OF DANIEL KNOLL

Edutopia.org, a website designed to share information and lessons with teachers about all kinds of topics in the modern classroom, (seriously it’s a really cool website, check it out) has a page of case studies called “Schools That Work.” One of the subjects Edutopia focuses on is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Schools in Louisville have adopted what they hope will become a national standard for SEL called CARE For Students. CARE stands for Community, Autonomy, Relationships and Empowerment. Each of these four pillars shapes the idea that the students in this school district will understand how to share information about themselves with their classmates, develop positive relationships with their peers, and know how to handle conflict when it arises. CARE was developed by a Superintendent named Sheldon Berman, and Mr Berman is very clear this isn’t “touchy-feely stuff.” For Mr. Berman, CARE is “Core social skills that give kids the knowledge and experience to work effectively with others. This isn’t about being nice. It’s serious work to create a sense of community and resolve conflicts.”

One specific part of the CARE project is called a “Morning Meeting.” This twenty minute session starts with educators greeting students personally as they enter the school / classroom. Students then partake in a game or activity for 20 minutes that gets students excited to learn and comfortable sharing with others. There are all kinds of activities that take part in these “Morning Meetings,” and after watching a quick video about the program, the meetings look very similar to the types of check ins we did throughout this semester (such as Wind Blows and Roses and Thorns). I think these types of morning check ins work as an informal activity in a formal educational setting for all ages. Obviously the topic of discussion changes as the needs of the students change with age, school location etc, but the beauty of these types of activities is that they can change to adapt the needs of the community. These meetings set the tone for the rest of the day force students to think about real life conflict situations and how to best resolve them. Personally I plan to incorporate a number of the CARE For Students elements into my own classroom, especially the concept of developing positive relationships through trust and sharing, and setting the rules of the classroom. To learn more abut the details of CARE and how it works in Louisville, check out: http://www.edutopia.org/stw-louisville-sel-social-emotional-learning (Morning Meetings are just a small part of the program.)

The two pillars of Peace Education that CARE best introduces in the classroom are Community Building and Nurturing Emotional Intelligence. By hosting a number of activities focused around sharing and understanding amongst classmates, CARE creates a strong sense of community between students. By having students draft and reinforce the rules and expectations of the classroom, you are developing a community that is successful as a team, and not from the teacher exerting authority over students. By creating this type of buy-in to the program, students are much more likely to keep order within the classroom. The teacher creates a safe space, and the students run with the opportunity to develop SEL. The second pillar, Nurturing Emotional Intelligence is a fairly obvious outcome from the CARE program. By teaching students how to address conflict such as bullying in a productive and safe environment, you are teaching life skills that will set them up for success far beyond their time in the classroom. Conversations about how to build relationships and address issues with others are often absent from modern curriculums, and SEL is an attempt to fill this void in student’s development. I can’t wait to use some of the lessons and techniques discussed in the Schools That Work section in my own classroom.

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