At Corlears, each student is valued for the unique person they are. For students, getting to know who that person actually is can be a long journey of discovery and learning. Throughout their years at Corlears, each child is given a multitude of opportunities to reflect on who they are both as individuals and as learners. As they discover more about themselves, and each other, they become more thoughtful and empathic with each passing grade.
The 3/4s are the first to truly delve into the self. The” All About Me” study gives children a chance to think deeply about their lives and families. As a group, students share details such as family structure, traditions and food. Through their exploration they discover the varying cultures and lifestyles of their classmates. A topic that often arises throughout the study is food. Given that food is such an integral and often personal part of one’s culture, the 3/4s food mantra is “Don’t ‘yuck’ my yum.” At its core, this phrase and its frequent use in the classroom help promote cultural understanding and an open mindedness around food at a young age. At meeting time, conversations about such topics begin and grow in an organic way. Through each share, students explore the similarities and differences that exist among their closest friends. This work sets the stage for our students to become empathic community members.
Exploration of the self and others continues as students grow older and move into the upper grades. In the 6/7s, children hit a developmental milestone. Halfway through the school year, the second graders become extremely reflective. They observe their younger classmates and make connections to their own past behaviors and personality traits. It is at this time when they begin to think about who they have been and who they are growing into. As the eldest children in the room, the 7s take to their position as mentors to their younger counterparts with pride. Patricia, 6/7s teacher, says that as they learn to “lend a helping hand” they “begin digging into what it means to be part of a community.” As they enter the next phase of their educational journey, they will explore what it means to be part of an even larger community.
The 8/9s’ self-reflection is multi-layered. Through their curricular work, they each explore their role in their classroom and in society as a whole. Early on, students set classroom standards based on their own learning needs. They work together to create expectations base on what they each need, and what their classmates need from them in order to have a successful year. In January they check in to see if the expectations need adjusting based on how they have grown and changes as a learning community. Beyond learning styles and needs, students begin to look at themselves on a much deeper and more personal level. This year’s election study gave each community member the opportunity to explore their role in society, and ways they can harness their power to support causes they are passionate about. Each Social Justice meeting, which occur every Day 3, is a chance to explore a variety of issues and the different groups that might be affected. They continue this work as their immigration study brings new faces (and some familiar ones) to their classroom. Conducting interviews with immigrants, interviewees share pieces of their culture and experiences with our young researchers. In learning about the journeys of others, they naturally compare their own life events and family culture. Just as they did as 3/4s, students learn more about the differing experience of people around them; building on their ever-growing compassion and empathy.
As most adults can attest, self-discovery is a lifelong process, but our students are able to engage in deep self-reflection at young age; empowering them to grow into compassionate, empathic change makers. By understanding what they need in order to thrive, they are able to advocate for themselves. By learning about their role in the world around them, they are able to advocate for others - and they carry this confidence and compassion far beyond 5th grade.