Advice Column, Education, Koa Academy, Recently


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  • Category Advice Column, Education, Koa Academy, Recently

A few kids are all-rounders, mostly engaging well in their learning and easily in their school community.  Others may be consistently highly engaged in the classroom and achieve well in academics but may sit on the sidelines socially.  Some are social butterflies and sports stars while their schoolwork suffers.  Others flounder around in a middle ground, achieving enough to get by here and there, shifting from time to time, but finding no sustained place to shine.  

All of this has to do with how engaged a child may be in their own learning experience, and how engaged they may be in their relationships in their school environment.  Educational Psychologist, Angela Hough explains that a child’s engagement in school is crucial to their learning, and it is not just about their learning experiences. She says, “Peer relationships and teacher-learner relationships are vital for a child’s sense of self-worth, belonging and well-being. Generally, the more a child feels valued for who they are, and the more they feel included, the happier they are, and the more they are able to contribute and experience in the learning environment.  Therefore, encouraging positive relationship skills in schools is vital for learning. This can be modelled, taught, encouraged and facilitated.” 

Mark Anderson, Co-founder and Principal of Koa Academy, a high engagement online school says, “Socio-emotional skills can’t be taught through a curriculum as if they are hard skills like learning long division. They have to be learnt over time through modelling, practice and coaching. The school needs to provide structure for socio-emotional learning, such as we have daily Morning Connect sessions to really focus on this type of learning. We run activities focused on key social, relationship and communication skills and constantly provide opportunities for the kids to interact with each other in a safe, supportive and carefully facilitated environment”

Why is socio-emotional learning important?

As parents we grew up educated in the industrial era that lionized ‘hard skills’ and competitive attributes while designating communication and interpersonal skills as ‘soft skills’ of much lesser importance.  Times have changed.  For our kids in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4iR), their abilities to build relationships, resolve conflicts, collaborate, be an effective team member and artfully navigate communication roadblocks have become top workplace skills.  Developing these competencies should not only start in school but is essential to facilitating the high engagement learning environment where academic performance also thrives.

It’s important to note that socio-emotional learning doesn’t just happen in every school environment as some kind of natural consequence of bringing children together to learn.  This is evident by how widespread bullying remains as an issue in South African schools.  Whether your child attends a physical or an online school, socio-emotional learning needs to be intentional, and to have structure, modelling and coaching.

Anderson concludes, “Having positive relationships in school, with friends, peers and teachers helps your child to be more engaged in their community, and high engagement is critical to their learning.”

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