Over the last few years we have introduced a number of new initiatives aimed at supporting the wellbeing, mental resilience and critical thinking skills of our pupils. As we continue to develop these aspects of student learning, Bute House staff curated an innovative, bespoke programme called ‘Connections and Reflections’ (C&R). This curricular area includes components of Friendology, the Zones of Regulation, Mirrors and Windows, critical thinking skills, and study skills/executive functioning (in the Upper School) – timetabled for 30 minutes weekly in all year groups. In the sessions, students build on their self-regulatory, metacognitive, and conflict resolution skills, as well as their understanding of their peers’ families and identities.
Teaching of ‘learning how to learn’ needs to be done as a discrete course as well as embedded into the curriculum. The three main areas of these learning ‘skills’ are Metacognition, Self-Regulation and Oracy. Through the development of these primary skills in C&R, we prepare our students to be confident, reflective, resilient and inclusive learners and citizens.
Developed by URStrong, Friendology is all about empowering kids with friendship skills! Through introduction and modelled practice of specific strategies, students develop the skills and language to build and maintain healthy friendships.
The Zones of Regulation
The Zones are a self-regulation programme which helps pupils to identify their own emotions/level of alertness and select tools that work for them to regulate. The aim of the Zones is to show the children that all emotions are okay and are not to be ‘controlled,’ but rather that in order to be available for learning they need to be able to manage and cope using independent strategies.
Critical Thinking & Metacognition
Asking questions is a cornerstone of child development and children must feel comfortable to ask questions without fear of ridicule or sarcasm. But how do we ensure our children are asking good relevant questions? This is at the heart of the Metacognitive and critical thinking units of our C&R lessons.
Mirrors and Windows
In these sessions, students and their families have the opportunity to come to school and respond to the question ‘How do you want us to know you?’ Following each conversation, staff facilitate a discussion for students to identify ‘mirrors’ and ‘windows.’ The Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) Project uses the terminology ‘mirrors and windows’ as follows: ‘Mirrors are stories that reflect your culture/reality and help you understand yourself. Windows offer you a view into someone else’s experience. We all need both in our lives. When you only have mirrors, your worldview lacks the beauty of a wide range of perspectives. When you only have windows, you feel like you don’t belong. But when you see life through this lens and make room for both windows and mirrors, a rich, diverse, global world reveals that there are multiple ways of being.’ It has been fascinating to learn about our wonderful families and their histories, religious celebrations, cuisine, traditions and family structures, and even more amazing to see the ways that the children deepen their understanding of inclusion and the world through these discussions.
In the Upper School, pupils begin to prepare for the transition to secondary school through the development of their study and organisational skills. Students learn explicit strategies to support executive functions, such as how to take notes and maintain organisation of their materials. They also have opportunities to unpack natural anxieties that come with transition, and learn tools to manage these concerns.