It all depends on togetherness

improve in schools: for example the school climate, the children's self-image, but ultimately also learning. It all depends on togetherness.

It all depends on togetherness
It all depends on togetherness

If you strengthen the social, emotional and intercultural skills of schoolchildren and teachers, many things improve in schools: for example the school climate, the children's self-image, but ultimately also learning. It all depends on togetherness.

What exactly do you have to imagine by social, emotional and intercultural skills?

With emotional competencies it is meant to recognize one's own feelings. These often express themselves quite physically, for example the proverbial "lump in the throat". At the same time, it is about assigning thoughts to the right emotions. For example, children often mistake sadness for anger and react aggressively when they are sad. That does not mean that these are suppressed. But it is often better for your own well-being - and that of others - to withhold reactions at first so that you can express them more carefully later. Core elements of social competence are the ability to take the perspective of others, to empathize with them and to appreciate them, to be open and curious at the same time. They help build and maintain relationships. You also need all these emotional and social skills in order to behave appropriately in intercultural situations. In addition, there is, for example, not dividing people into œwe and œothers and understanding that a person's identity is shaped by a multitude of factors - and not just by belonging to a country or religious community. It is also important to be able to recognize inequalities in society and their effects on people's lives and to be able to reflect them critically.

And in what ways is it helpful for working and learning in school if you promote these skills?

Research shows that children with well-developed social, emotional and intercultural skills feel more comfortable, are more self-confident, more helpful, less aggressive and have better relationships with their peers and their teachers. They are more active in the classroom and perform better in school. Children and young people can therefore benefit from appropriate training in various ways. We are developing such a support measure for schools in our œHand in Hand project. We are following a so-called œwhole school approach. That means we also work with teachers, school administrators and other educational staff. In the training courses for these target groups, they should be given the opportunity to jointly reflect on and develop their skills in the field of promoting social, emotional and intercultural skills in children and young people.

Does the training offer the teacher™s additional added value?

Yes, the training for the teachers also aims to strengthen them as individuals. Teaching is a demanding profession because it entails a lot of responsibility for the young people. At the same time, it is characterized by challenging contradictions. For example, teachers should encourage all learners individually, but also assign grades and thus lay the foundation for selection decisions. School is a compulsory course, but teachers should support children and young people in developing their autonomy. They also have to endure that the young people try things out, test limits and sometimes provoke them properly. The training aims to support the teachers in taking good care of themselves in the face of these challenges and in finding space for relaxation. Taken together, the various elements of the hand-in-hand program should also contribute to improving the school climate for everyone, i.e. making it more inclusive. Those who are more affected by exclusion and discrimination, such as children and young people with a migration background or from other socially disadvantaged backgrounds, benefit in particular.

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How exactly does the project work and what is your role in it?

Developed training programs to promote social, emotional and intercultural skills for the groups are involved in everyday school life. Currently analyzing the results for their effectiveness. So we want to know whether the social, emotional and intercultural skills and / or the class atmosphere in the participating schools have actually changed as a result of the training. At the same time, we want to find out how the training was perceived by the participants. We would also like to derive suggestions for improvement from the results. For this we used questionnaires and tests, but also had interviews conducted. The programs are then to be prepared so that they can be used.

Explain the various dimensions of the funding program in more detail!

The studies have shown that regular practice of such exercises can help you to perceive and understand your own emotions better and therefore to regulate them better. Mindfulness can also be beneficial for social skills. Among other things, it is assumed that an unbiased and curious attitude helps to meet other people openly and to avoid rash judgments. Other elements of the training are derived from the family therapy approach. The main goal is to internalize the values ‹‹of equality and responsibility. Difficult, conflicted or otherwise stressful situations are reflected on. You practice recognizing your own emotions, understanding the reasons for your own behavior and becoming aware of different perspectives on the same situation.

And how do you promote intercultural learning?

Using an experiential approach. For example, we let the participants experience in a playful way what it is like not to know the rules according to which a new group acts and to constantly make œmistakes in the eyes of the others. You will also learn what it feels like to be treated on the basis of prejudice - and not as an individual. Our exercises should also make it possible to experience that many things are more difficult if you do not have certain privileges. Teachers are also encouraged to reflect critically on the extent to which the family backgrounds of children and adolescents, or their assumptions about it, influence their pedagogical behavior or their dealings with parents.

Finally, maybe a few personal words: Why do you want hand in hand to be a success?

As external evaluators, we naturally have to be as neutral as possible. Particularly successful if we can help all of us - that is, research, educational practice and of course the children and young people - learn something about how and under what conditions social, emotional and intercultural learning in school can succeed. We hope that as a result everyone will feel more comfortable there, that there will be less bullying, discrimination and violence. That would make us happy