Lower School Students Focus on Emotional Intelligence During October’s Anti-Bullying Month

A group of Oak Knoll School first graders participated in a social-emotional lesson about how to express their feelings and when it’s right to tell on someone vs. tattle recently – part of a larger month-long effort throughout all of Oak Knoll’s Lower School grades calling attention to National Anti-Bullying month during October.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. And it also occurs online. Cyberbullying takes on several common forms via text messaging, via apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or even via video game chats.

Christine Spies, Oak Knoll’s Lower School Division Head, said that following months of remote and hybrid learning due to COVID, students at schools everywhere can benefit from consistent and thoughtful social emotional learning opportunities.

“During October, our SEL classes focus on anti-bullying lessons which in turn, elevate our students’ emotional intelligence helping them to better navigate social situations with peers each day. I’m excited that our students can learn these lessons and more, from our Character Strong SEL curriculum and our NJ Bar Anti-Bullying Lessons. These learning experiences reflect our commitment to educating the whole child,” Spies said.

Lower School Counselor Melissa Nelson visited different grade levels and classes in October where she delivered developmentally appropriate material and lessons and activities about relevant ways to combat bullying tailored to each age group.

In one first grade classroom, Nelson discussed with the children what “I” messages are (“I feel ___when you___because___” – how children could best express their feelings by being assertive and the difference between tattling and telling on someone.

The first grade class also ran through age-appropriate, real-time scenarios in guidance class about when to ask a teacher or grown up for help, the importance of including everyone at recess time, and what to do if another student did something that caused hurt feelings.

Nelson also discussed the basic differences between bullying and normal conflict with kindergarten students. Other grades learned about how to be an upstander and how to tell the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive communication. Throughout the month, classes played games, role played, did partner work, had in-depth discussions, watched short films, read stories and more.

“My goal is to make this material personal and relevant so that the students really understand how they can make a difference in keeping their school community positive and inclusive,” said Nelson.

One way sixth graders spread positivity was by drawing paper footprints with anti-bullying messages written on them, then taping them to LS hallway floors.

“The exercise is to spotlight 6th graders as leaders who are leaving a positive footprint on Oak Knoll’s Lower School community,” said Nelson.

Although October calls special attention to anti-bullying through several social-emotional lessons during the month, Lower School students learn how to be kind to others all year long at Oak Knoll School, from a young age.

The Lower School’s Character Strong curriculum, unveiled in the fall of 2020, reinforces many of the Holy Child School Goals, which call for compassion in every facet of life and to show reverence for the dignity and uniqueness of each person. Through Character Strong and the school’s social-emotional curriculum, students learn how to build important character traits – like empathy, kindness and respect.

This fall, the LS guidance program also organized a special lunch for each new student to Oak Knoll to make them feel welcome to the school. The guidance program also organized “Hello Week” during the first full week of school designed to encourage all students in grades preK-6 to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, and include others to build a friendly and welcoming community.

In addition, the Lower School Sunshine Club meets once weekly during recess to make birthday cards, grief cards and cards with kind messages for anyone who might need their spirits lifted.

“It’s so wonderful to hear the students laughing and coming up with kind messages for their peers – they really know how to spread sunshine around our school,” said Nelson.