Ben Mearhart portrait

Written by Ben Mearhart

M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and in his 10 years as a senior leader developed practices and curricula which progressed teaching, learning, outcomes and personal development to ‘Outstanding’ levels.

Intent

 

As a joint-Headteacher of a forward-thinking primary school I was always on the look-out for initiatives which spoke to the heart of what I most value – the children’s actual experience and equipping them for leading rewarding lives. Think Equal’s social and emotional literacy programme achieves this and so much more.

 

I can’t think of anyone I know who wouldn’t benefit from enhanced social and emotional literacy.  From engaging the compassion that it can grow, for ourselves and everyone around us.  What do you do when you feel completely lost?  When you feel you’ve made a terrible mistake?  How do you support yourself or others when they feel this way?  How do you treat people as they would like to be treated?

 

This, to my mind, is the true work of a curriculum, of a school; namely to cultivate an authentic social and emotional literacy which is steeled with a depth and breadth of real world understanding that together can make the world we leave for our children better than the one we inherited.

 

Implementation

 

You may of course learn such things through trial and error.   Or, to be more certain of success, you can embrace social and emotional literacy as a golden thread of your learning and understanding as a student, of your pedagogy and support as a teacher and of your vision and impact as a leader.  The mission, content and execution of Think Equal’s programme achieves this too. Bold claims I know, but treat those seeds of doubt to a quick glance at Think Equal’s Committee of Advisors and Academic Partners to see how this might be possible.

 

From Understanding the World to Personal, Social and Emotional Development – and all the fertile vertical and horizontal links between and beyond – Think Equal’s programme can instantly enhance your curriculum, pastoral care and ultimately the love and cohesion that unites your school community. And at a time when children’s minds – at their most plastic – can be so ripe to engage with what so many adults, myself included, can find paralysingly-awkward and difficult to negotiate in reality.  What is true fairness?  How are we different and how are we similar?  How do I show you that I genuinely appreciate you as a human being? The programme largely enables these developments through consistently engaging and inspiring stories and activities.  

 

Diverse narratives:

At age- and stage-appropriate levels, the children explore and embrace vital concepts like equality, emotion and race within the comparative safety of the experiences and choices of a beautiful range of characters.

 

Emotional intelligence in action:

Their discoveries are then reinforced with the help of the programme’s carefully scaffolded and inclusive activities so that they are ready to respond when reality calls.

 

Impact

 

And oh the difference! At its most essential, we found that our planning for Personal, Social and Emotional Development for the year was pretty much covered.  Done.

 

More importantly…within weeks we saw elevated levels of kindness and consideration.  We saw children often reserved and tentative now emboldened and asserting their values.  We saw children who knew themselves and their friends with deeper understanding and confidence, who had normalised the range of emotions we experience but not the negative actions they can drive. 

 

Children who, self-confident and upright, were happier, more engaged, independent and much more likely to approach conflict with courage and solutions(!).   The positivity rippled through our staff and to home too. These days there is rightly much talk of a mental health and well-being crisis (pre- and post-Covid 19).  In times of joy, sorrow and everything in between I don’t think we can expect more than to ride those waves to the best of our ability. Pursuing the Think Equal programme enhances that ability and not as a reactive solution – a bolt on – but as a pro-active and living, breathing and growing reality.

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