Sessions to help personal growth

Throughout the month of May I had the pleasure of working with a Year 6 class in one local primary school.  Delivering 3 teaching sessions, designed to support pupils preparing for SATS and transition from Primary to Secondary School. 

The first session focuses on ‘worries and fears’, providing young people an opportunity to begin exploring a range of different feelings and emotions in a safe and nurturing environment. Over the session we are able to think about any worries that they might have about the coming weeks, in particular getting ready for their SATS. 

The second session explores the concept of ‘Growth Mindset’ and the idea of ‘You can do it if you only try’.  It is important to help young people to develop resilience and understand that making mistakes is not a bad thing. Making mistakes and then learning from our mistakes helps us to grow and can help build confidence.  

The final session this week was focused on ‘Celebrating Success and Future goals’,  using Edward de Bono’s  ‘Six Thinking Hats’  (1985) as a means of reflecting on the school journey so far.  Putting the class into four groups and each group focusing on one area; the earliest memories of school, the happy memories, the challenges that they have had to overcome and learn from, the things that they have learnt about themselves as an individual and about who they are as a class.  Further discussion was focused on any worries or fears they might have about the transition from primary to secondary school. 

Setting the scene for talking about feelings

Whether talking about feelings is happening with individuals, in a small group or in a classroom environment, making children feel at ease from the start is paramount.

Each session started out the same as a group on the carpet.  First session was spent going around the circle everyone sharing something to the class, something they were interested in or enjoyed outside of school that maybe others were not aware of.  Following on from this each young person picked out a piece of paper from an envelope that identified a different feeling.

Quickly, discussions began to emerge, talking about different feelings the group starting to reflect on personal experiences, making the links with the feeling and the different physical symptoms people often have but not always understand.  It was clear that whilst most of the class had heard of the different feelings, trying to relate to some of them was a difficult task to do. 

Working together as a team

It was wonderful to see 21 young people sat actively listening to one another and working together as a team.  Some of the discussions over the sessions were challenging, yet still it was reassuring to see peers being encouraged, given the time and space to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of emotional literacy.  This creating an opportunity for building on resilience, developing confidence and good self-esteem. 

Talking through worries and difficult feelings is not an easy task, personal and professional experience reminds me of the times when I too have found it a challenge to articulate how I am feeling.  Finding the right words to describe how we are feeling can be hard, even as an adult.  Too often we  think  we understand what is going on and why we are  feeling  and  responding  a certain way but can we honestly say we always understand what is going on and the reasons why? 

Offering support and sharing experiences

I sat and listened in amazement, feeling privileged to be working with such a wonderful group of young people who over the three sessions, supported one another with difficult conversations, listened and showed interest in their peers experience’s. 

The magic finally taking place when they were able to reflect, ‘having worries is normal’  and ‘it’s okay to make mistakes, we learn from our mistakes’.  

Thoughts about Secondary School

Some were excited and happy to be moving to a new school with their friends, others were able to identify some worries and fears but conclude that they all had something in common; the worries that they had were worries that other young people in the class had too. Getting lost in a big school, having to make new friends and getting on a bus. 

By reflecting on their school journey so far, the class were able to recognise that some of their current worries about the transition to Secondary, were similar to the worries they had around starting Primary School. 

Some of the class members who joined the school from being pupils at other primary schools first, had vivid memories of challenges that they had to overcome: Trying to make friends when a friendship group has already been formed, Confidence to join in with others, Belief in ability to do work due to it being different to how it was at previous school. 

By the end of the final session it was fantastic to observe and listen to the class talk openly to one another, reflecting on what starting out at a new school was like for them, their happy memories, the difficulties, the things that they have learnt about themselves, the person they have become, their class identity they have formed over the years. 

Promoting positive outcomes

Providing young people with knowledge and understanding of the various positive and negative thoughts, feelings and actions is paramount to promoting confidence and good self esteem.  Guiding young people in ways so that they are able to reflect on any past challenges and the various strategies they used to overcome these challenges helps to encourage self belief and a positive growth mindset. 

By allowing young people to talk openly about their hopes and dreams, worries and fears, barriers they have overcome and challenges they currently face, teaches young people that some of the thoughts and feelings they experience are completely normal. 

Planting emotional resilience in children from a young age provides them with the tools they need to face new challenges head on encouraging resilience and independence as they grow into the adolescent years. 

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