Group-Consciousness and Social-Mindedness Should Be Developed
Imagine a school some 90 years ago—at the start of the Great Depression—that actually encouraged a reflective dialogue amongst even the youngest of their students by engaging them in broad conversations, related to social dynamics and one’s impact on life and humanity.
Those animated discussions were part of an approach rooted in St. George’s belief that every child needed to be personally connected to, and challenged by, real life issues, in order to eventually become pro-active adult participants in society. Facilitating group-consciousness and social-mindedness was a remarkable aspiration for a private school in Montreal to assume in the early 1930s, and of course, it remains most relevant today.
A REMARKABLE ASPIRATION FOR
A PRIVATE SCHOOL IN MONTREAL
TO ASSUME IN THE EARLY 1930S,
AND OF COURSE,
THIS ASPIRATION REMAINS
MOST RELEVANT TODAY.
GROUP-CONSCIOUSNESS AND SOCIAL-MINDEDNESS SHOULD BE DEVELOPED
In this, the fifth of our weekly blogs dedicated to our Six Founding Principles, we can appreciate that our concept of “Group-Consciousness and Social-Mindedness Should Be Developed” has greatly evolved during the past 90 years. Advancements made in the study of psychology and other social sciences have highlighted the role that each person assumes, consciously or otherwise, in shaping the communities in which we live.
Contemporary understanding of social-mindedness and group-consciousness presumes the ability of individuals to understand the social and global reality in which they live, while at the same time realizing the need to constantly adjust as members of society. It also encourages a willingness to take action on both local and global social issues.
CURRENT CONTEXT AND MODERN DAY EXAMPLES
In 2020, the dynamic interdependence of individuals within a community, and the values of empathy and respect for others, are core components of a St. George’s School education. Even our youngest students are asked to reflect on authentic social experiences as they begin their journey to becoming engaged and compassionate citizens throughout their lives.
Even though our students are not presently attending a “brick and mortar” school, the principles of Group-Consciousness and Social-Mindedness are embedded in our Distance Learning instruction.
I am very proud to share some of the many examples :
Grade 5 students empathetically connected with various characters from the class novel “Because of M. Terrupt” (read at home of course) and, encouraged by teacher prompts, have refashioned them within the current COVID-19 context
Grade 6 students have prepared a year-long passage project for presentation to peers and parents at the end of their elementary school experience. It is a profound reflection on the markers of their identity within the St. George’s community and beyond—their take-aways from their school and life experiences, their social engagement with peers, and their contributions to the greater community as they begin to define their future aspirations
Grade 11 students in Media Studies have worked on entrepreneurial solutions to various societal issues. Their teacher, Ms. Sutorius, indicates that this year’s projects are particularly impressive as many of them are “pitching” solutions to COVID-19 issues to panels of entrepreneurs and experts in various fields, seeking feedback on the product or service that they have developed or designed
THE POWER OF CONNECTION: EVEN AT A DISTANCE
In all of our current Distance Learning scenarios, students are demonstrating genuine empathy and connectedness as co-existing aspirations of their academic engagement.
However, given the significant constraints associated with online learning, why do we continue to promote genuine connectedness and social-mindedness as integral aspects of our Distance Learning program, The BLVD.? Isn’t it hard enough to develop an online curriculum that satisfies Ministry requirements without the added focus? Why is it important that our St. George’s curriculum continue to include empathetic engagement with broader social issues while presenting possible solutions?
The answer can be understood in the findings of Marie-Helen Immordino-Yang. Her compelling research emphasizes the importance of including social-mindedness and group-consciousness within a thoughtful and purposeful curriculum.
Whether they are in history class or at the dinner table, people naturally construct their own personal narratives to make sense of the world around them and their related experiences within it.
SHAPING STUDENTS’ PERSONAL NARRATIVES
St. George’s Distance Learning program encourages our students to tell their story—about who they are, how the world works and why and how they fit into this narrative, both now and throughout their life. As teachers offer opportunities for students to construct strong personal narratives through curriculum and conversations, a greater cognitive engagement is activated and it consolidates learning as “a self-perpetuating motion machine”.
Consistent with a century of progressive educational thinking, Dr. Immordino-Yang’s research supports the notion that the way kids think, is even more beneficial to their cognitive development than what they know.
LESSONS FOR LIFE
Given the span of nine decades, it is most impressive to realize that our founding parents and educators intuitively recognized the importance of social-mindedness and group-consciousness as they were developing a progressive model of educating the complete child, while preparing them for a lifetime of empathy and service.
Today, our teachers support and expect our students to make sense of all that they are discovering, as evidenced through their writing, problem solving, dialogue and reflection. At both the elementary school and high school, this value-infused learning culminates in the end-of-year Grade 6 ‘Passage Project’ and our Grade 11 ‘Integrative Projects’, both of which are presented to panels of teachers, peers and external evaluators.
In doing so, students are participating in an engagement conducive “to building strong, personal narratives that leverage the emotional power of big ideas and abstract meaning-making in the service of motivated work on concrete tasks and skills”.
Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.
— John Dewey
CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
Social dispositions of students can be shaped by a teacher’s skillful direction and their encouragement to engage reflectively with issues and ideas, be curious and compassionate, and to internalize their learning. These attributes help to shape their emerging values and inform them of who they are and who they will become as young adults. Not only does this more meaningful and engaged curriculum encourage personal growth, social-emotional well-being, and a deeper brain development, it also encourages a disposition for our students to engage as strong positive contributors to society, and to the world at large.
Something which, in today’s world in particular, we certainly need more of.