Emotional intelligence is valued as highly as academic and physical development and is fostered in many ways at Mariposa.
Relationship-Based Classrooms: Our day begins with a handshake at the door and formal academic instruction is stopped early after each learning block so that students and teachers eat snack and lunch together daily. This allows teacher to have discussion with her students that are open-ended and genuine. Looping is another aspect of Mariposa's program that builds relationships. The majority of our returning students have the same teacher they did last year. As such, the teacher and student begin the year with a working relationship and more personal understanding of the student and his/her family.
Council Circle is a key component in our relationship-based classrooms, where students are learning to take leadership in mutually determining the classroom culture and expectations. In this setting, students have the opportunity to reflect on learning, make or revise group agreements, share appreciations and concerns, and make requests of themselves, the teacher, or other students. In the Council Circle, students learn to listen actively, speak clearly and genuinely, and consider the needs of others in their community. In school similar to ours, this forum has been shown to foster highly effective interpersonal skills and to set the tone for nonviolent and effective conflict resolution.
Explicit Social Skills Lessons: Social skills lessons are embedded in our school program and taught explicitly in every classroom by the school counselor each week. Social skills lessons are based on the Second Step curriculum and guided by theories of Nonviolent CommunicationSM (NVC) which the school counselor has foundational training in and our teachers have experience with. As such, communication and interrelating skills are a regular part of the classroom curriculum. Skills such as perspective taking, conflict resolution, and empathy are taught explicitly in every classroom. “Compassionate Parenting” classes are also offered weekly by our school counselor and are attended regularly by several parents.
Positive Classroom Management: Another primary aspect of meeting the social-emotional development of Mariposa students is noticed within the management systems in each classroom. The word “discipline” is derived from the word “disciple” or teacher. Fostering intrinsic motivation for learning and teaching positive behavior without reprimanding is imperative in building a child’s self-esteem and confidence to take ownership of his or her own actions. Accordingly, classroom management systems focus on developing positive behavior through personal acknowledgments and recognition rather than rewards. Classroom teachers use such strategies as “Thank You” boxes, positive notes home, student appreciations given by other students during Council Circle, or whole-class celebrations. Classroom behavior revolves around classroom agreements derived by the students and teacher together rather than rules mandated by the teacher alone. If a student “breaks” an agreement it is discussed with the teacher or within the council circle. Negative behavior is not punished, but rather results in natural consequences. For example, a younger student who uses his hands to hurt another might draw a picture of his own hand and write or tell about times when s/he used hands for something positive. A child who does not use time wisely during academic work times may have to bring the work home for homework and have a teacher conference to discuss the issue. Parents are almost always a part of a positive behavior plan to address recurring negative behaviors.
Through the above program elements, students are developing communication and interpersonal skills that will help them participate effectively in society, navigate healthy interpersonal relationships, resolve conflicts effectively, and solve problems creatively. Exploring challenging and perplexing social issues and resolving conflicts is important, not only to help students grow into healthy functioning adults, but to ensure that these issues do not preoccupy their attention and interfere with learning. Students are learning to apply the skills necessary to work collaboratively and cooperatively in group and community settings. This aspect of the school philosophy is empirically supported and ensures that students are nurtured as socially responsible citizens who receive experience and opportunities that will enable them to grow, participate, and lead actively and effectively in a democratic institution. Studies are unequivocal in supporting the idea that inter-personal or emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of success than academic achievement.