Kids’ Scores Rise When They Care About Other Kids & Teachers
By Shlomo Maital
It’s summer vacation time for school kids. A good time to reflect on what they will return to, in September.
In an Israeli weekly, psychiatrist Ron Berger, who specializes in helping children all over the world who suffer from post-trauma stress disorder, recounts an experiment tried at a small school in northern Israel. The school did poorly in national performance tests. Then Berger and colleagues introduced a program, “A call to giving”, which focused on two key elements:
- Mindfulness — “intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. Simply being aware of one’s own feelings and thoughts in the present.
- Compassion — sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
The idea? Create strong bonds among the schoolchildren, first by making each of them aware of their own feelings and identity, then developing a caring attitude toward others, include the teacher.
So – what in the world has this to do with test scores?
Well, apparently a lot. The school now scores among the highest, in Israeli schools, in national tests.
Why? The simple answer could be — kids study best when they like the place in which they go to school, like other kids, like the teachers, and find that the teachers like them. Apparently, children do not thrive in an environment where there is intense pressure to achieve high grades, and where each individual essentially is out for themselves, sink or swim, instead of being part of a tight-knit social community that helps one another.
Is this naïve? Innocent? Simple-minded? Perhaps. But at least at once school, it works. It’s worth a try.