Courage Tetteh, Teacher Support Officer (PoP Ghana) & Selorm Nyamalor, Teacher Support Coordinator (PoP Ghana)
Conversations about children’s education have primarily focused on academic success over the years. The focus of guardians, instructors and other education stakeholders is unconsciously directed toward teaching and learning resources, as well as academic performance. There hasn’t been much of a focus on developing children’s social and emotional skills. Though the necessity to build social and emotional abilities in learners is mentioned in the curriculum, it hasn’t been crystallized as much as academic needs. This accidental disregard for students’ social and emotional needs ultimately has a negative impact on their academic performance. Studies suggest that education that promotes Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has a favorable effect and it is for this reason that Pencils of Promise (PoP) launched the SEL program in 2016.
SEL is a game changer for me. It instills empathy in students and prepares them to coexist peacefully with their peers.Emmanuel Adams Dei, Teacher Support Officer
When Alyssa Simmons, Ph.D. introduced us to SEL, we realized right away that if we were successful in getting it implemented in schools, it would make classes more interactive and engaging because learners would acquire interpersonal and social skills through the SEL activities. The program began in four schools as a pilot for only Basic 1 and 2 classes and introduction of SEL to these schools sparked a lot of interest. Teachers have reported that students are now arriving at school early because they do not want to miss the SEL activities. Others admitted that after a few weeks of morning meeting activities that their relationships with learners, as well as between learners, had improved.
We later divided SEL activities into two components: Morning Meeting and Skills Enabling Emotional Development (SEED). Morning Meeting is aimed at kindergarten, Basic 1 and Basic 2 students, whereas SEED is aimed at Basic 3 to Basic 6 students. Regardless of this distinction, all learners develop the same five skills that are at the heart of the SEL program: 1) self-awareness, 2) self-management, 3) social awareness, 4) relationship skills and 5) responsible decision making.
Morning Meeting components, such as greetings, sharing, energizers, and the morning message, expose students to instructive and exciting activities that help address the social and emotional needs of both students and teachers. Learners are given the opportunity to greet one another by saying their names and maintaining eye contact, share ideas in pairs and groups, participate in energizing fun activities, and read a message written on the board by their teachers to begin their day on a positive note. SEED is organized in the same way, with five unique segments: Thought for the Day, Fun and Games, Circle of Friends, Good Wishes and Five SEL Competencies. These segments are split across Basic 3 to 6, with corresponding activities aimed at fostering self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills.
SEL programming is producing results, according to field reports from our monitoring and evaluation team. Every teacher actively participates in SEL training and offers vital insights based on their experience in facilitating morning meeting and SEED activities. When it comes to SEL engagements, it’s no longer business as usual; teachers are creating their own content and activities centered on the five skills and providing engaging moments for their students.
We have encountered teachers who were previously dissatisfied with their jobs because they were having challenges managing student behavior. However, after being introduced to SEL, communication between them and their students has vastly improved, leading to a shared commitment to better academic achievements. We have also seen shy students who refused to answer questions in class, participate in group discussions or share their names. Teachers encouraged them and paired them with more affable and vocal learners for morning meetings and SEED exercises. As a result, they now appear more relaxed and confident in class, and they participate in lessons and converse with smiles on their faces.
The impact of SEL on student behavior and teaching approaches in PoP-supported schools has made it hard for us to keep the initiative limited to the schools in which we work. Freeman Gobah, PoP Ghana Country Director, recommended that one of the best possibilities for expanding program reach was to implement SEL in the Colleges of Education to familiarize student-teachers with SEL before they leave college. When this happens, he believes they will become SEL pioneers wherever they are stationed when they finish school. We quickly began inviting school tutors of Jasican and St. Teresa College of Education to attend our workshops as observers. They shared input on what they have seen, made recommendations and asked questions after the workshop.
Social and Emotional Learning helps learners gain confidence and educate them on how to interact effectively with others. The five skills learned via the SEL program are critical to a child’s successful development.Divine Koku Kekesi, Tutor, St. Teresa College of Education
After spending some time engaging with the principals of the Colleges of Education strategizing on the best ways to incorporate SEL into the curriculum, it became clear that inviting just a couple of tutors to our workshops would be insufficient. It was decided to host workshops specifically for Colleges of Education where their entire staff could attend. Each of the colleges has already hosted two of these sessions. We also held a workshop for the student teachers, where they were exposed to SEL, its benefits and the role they may play in pioneering it. What started off as tiny steps is now gathering traction and drawing the attention it requires. Aside from SEL, we also introduced them to Classroom Management.
The SEL Workshop in our College has aided both tutors and students in developing the skills to manage emotions and build positive relationships in the classroom in order to facilitate productive teaching and learning scenarios. It has also helped our students in developing the skills necessary to enable learning in a conducive and welcoming environment.Johnson Tsyawo, Tutor, Jasican College of Education
Since our engagement with Jasikan College of Education (Jasico) and St. Teresa’s College of Education (Teresco) in 2019, the response has always been positive. Leaders of both colleges were pleased with the SEL activities and to cement the partnership, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the colleges of education and PoP to continue engaging their tutors and students. The goal is simple: to get college graduates to use SEL approaches and activities in their classes to make the classrooms safer, more interactive and entertaining, while also introducing other teachers to the program. As part of this relationship, PoP also provided teaching and learning resources, as well as improved WASH infrastructure to the Colleges of Education.
Our mission continues as we plan to expand SEL and other innovative programs from these colleges to additional colleges.