Family Groups are Our Superpower
To be more exact, Family Groups are one of our many superpowers at Saklan. For those of you who are new to Saklan, Family Groups are a long practiced tradition that helps our students build positive character traits. While working on character may not be something unique to Saklan, I believe it is how we do it that is powerful.
Late into each spring, as a faculty, we start a conversation about the character traits we want to help students develop the following year. Traits like gratitude, compassion, honesty are among some of the characteristics we picked for this year. While the classroom teacher focuses on the monthly trait, our Family Groups are where the deep work happens. Each family group is made up of students from different grade levels, with the older ones taking a lead role. Every month, we set aside time for the older students to teach the younger ones about a particular trait.
This student to student approach serves many goals. To start with, our younger students truly enjoy being taught by older students. The activities feel more authentic when an older peer is leading a discussion on character than when an adult is facilitating. More importantly though, is the impact the Family Groups have on our older students. To teach something, one needs to understand it. Our older students need to think deeply about what a trait like gratitude means not just to them but to a six-year-old. Working with younger students helps them develop another superpower, empathy. Adolescents struggle with seeing the world through the eyes of others, but working with younger kids helps build that empathy muscle.
Lastly, as adults, we can reinforce the trait by following three simple steps. We model the character trait we are working on not only by setting the example but by owning our shortcomings. Secondly, we celebrate when students exhibit the behaviors we are seeking. Not by just saying “good job” but by letting them know we admire how they have behaved, or how we are proud of them. Thirdly and crucially, we put students in situations where they can practice the behavior. For instance, if we want them to show gratitude by writing thank-you notes, we set aside the time and materials for students to do this.
This month’s character trait is friendly, with our Family Groups meeting on the 25th. Help us help them by discussing what they did during Family Groups that day – and seeing how you can model, celebrate, and enable friendliness at home.