At the Jewish Community Day School of RI we believe that children do better when they feel better. Students who are able to recognize their needs while working to support and collaborate with others can take on greater challenges. School is an inherently social experience, and our teachers consider social learning as valuable as academic achievement. We know that the social skills students are taught at JCDSRI will help them throughout their lives as they become leaders and changemakers in their communities. Additionally, practicing kindness, collaboration and empathy help us create our school’s vibrant, diverse and welcoming Jewish community.
Fostering social learning and explicitly teaching students how to recognize their own feelings and those of others prepare our students to approach their relationships and their responsibilities with insight and empathy. A sampling of these skills include: welcoming visitors, self-advocacy, conflict resolution, listening and responding with empathy, and how to recognize, name, and process emotions. Teachers set aside time each day to bring the class together as a community. During these meetings, students practice active listening and engage in problem solving. We learn to invite and appreciate different outlooks with an open mind. We probe questions that we continue to ask long into adult life: “How do I become my best self? How do I support others to become the best version of themselves? What is my role in the community?”
The focus of our social learning develops as our students mature. For example, in our younger grades, students will learn to recognize their own needs as well as those of others and practice strategies to self-regulate. Our preschool students are introduced to a Peace Table in order to talk to friends about problems, feel heard, and collaboratively design solutions. These Peace Table steps accompany our students as they grow through the grades, using the systems and skills they practiced to sort through challenges. Each classroom also incorporates a quiet space that students may use to calm down, refocus, or recharge. In our older grades, we help our students alleviate academic stress through techniques such as, yoga, mantras, developing growth mindsets and perseverance. These habits of mind help our students embrace both academic, social and spiritual challenges.
Families of our graduates often return to share how the kindness, compassion, and emotional intelligence that was fostered at JCDSRI dramatically impacted their children’s academic and social success in middle school and beyond.