My name is Mandy Herold and I am a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor located in South Africa. This is my tenth year as the Principal of the Junior Prep (Grades 0-3) at The Ridge School, an all-boys independent prep school in Johannesburg. I am passionate about early childhood education. While Social Emotional Learning is still gaining traction in South African schools, I am excited to be embedding SEL in The Ridge School culture through Conscious Discipline.
South Africa has been in a hard lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic for several weeks. I use Conscious Discipline to help families cope with the stress and anxiety brought on by lockdown. Our boys are feeling isolated and missing their daily interaction with classmates and teachers. Their parents are struggling to manage their own work-from-home schedules while creating a home learning environment for their children. The Junior Prep team and I have encouraged connection and communication during this difficult time through:
- WhatsApp groups
- Voice notes
- Facebook School Assemblies
- Fun, encouraging videos from the teachers
- Seesaw for children to document and reflect on their learning
Schooling is always a partnership between parents and teachers, and right now this partnership is more important than ever.
I have found the most effective way to reach the students has been to record a Morning Meeting video comprised of messages, a Brain SmartÒ Start and a Wish Well. The students then respond by circling a Feeling Buddy on the “How Do You Feel?” chart and they can add a photograph, voice note, video or text to their submission. This has been very helpful in reaching all 259 boys and gaining daily insight into how they are faring during lockdown. You can watch a sample of a Morning Meeting below.
The Brain Smart® Start at the center of this meeting has four steps:
- Activity to Unite – This is an activity that brings everyone together, doing the same thing at the same time for the same purpose.
- Activity to Disengage Stress –Taking three deep belly breaths helps to turn off the fight or flight response. Moving one’s diaphragm also massages our internal organs, stimulates our pre-frontal cortex and sends a message to our brains that we are safe. You must disengage stress before you can connect.
- Activity to Connect – There are four essential components for connection: eye contact, physical touch, being present and playfulness. Connections on the outside build neural connections inside that wire the brain for impulse control and willingness. Connections govern behaviour.
- Activity to Commit – Commitments prime the brain for success and actively engage the prefrontal lobes. The activity to commit prompts us to set goals (individually and as a class) and work toward them.
The Brain Smart® Start physiologically & neurologically helps us move from a lower brain state to a higher brain state. This prepares the children for the day’s activities and helps them get off to a positive start every morning. A Brain Smart Start can be done any time throughout the day, with children or adults, and even within families.
More About The Ridge School
Our school is situated in one of the oldest parts of Johannesburg and opened its doors in 1919 with 13 boys and two members of staff. It is both steeped in tradition and progressive in its educational philosophy. Our mantra is “Where Boys are Known and Grown,” and this speaks to a holistic education. We are fortunate in that the school would be considered “privileged” in any economy in the world. The Ridge School is also a member of the International Boys Schools Coalition (IBSC).