In recent posts, I shared information from two presentations from Dr. Kim Marxhausen to the teachers of the Lutheran Schools Partnership before school began this year. Dr. Marxhausen, a Lutheran educator and educational psychologist, presented information to us about how the events of 2020 have affected our students, and how we can best help them learn. She also presented how teaching the faith supports students’ social and emotional needs.
Currently, social emotional learning (SEL) is a hot topic in the field of education. While the reasons can be hotly debated (and who needs another debate right now?), many students today are struggling with basic social emotional skills, such as knowing and being able to manage themselves, understanding the perspectives of others and relating effectively with them, and making sound choices about personal and social decisions. To these points, Dr. Marxhausen shared how Denmark has found success in implementing social emotional curriculum in their schools.
Denmark’s program is called Klassens Tid, which translates in English to “class time”. Klassens Tid is held weekly in each classroom. During Klassens Tid, students join together for food and fellowship. A special cake, made by the class, is shared. While sharing their cake, the students spend time in conversation. They talk about concerns and solve problems as a group. Students learn empathy as they listen to, care for, and help their classmates. Community is built. Klassens Tid is a requirement of the national curriculum, begun in the 1990’s.
Our Lutheran schools have long endeavored to be places of strong community. In our classrooms, students share daily devotions, songs, and pray together often. Community is built in many other ways, including shared service projects. At Concordia Lutheran High School, all students are members of a Koinonia group. “Koinonia”comes from a Greek word for fellowship. These groups meet weekly for fellowship, prayer, and often food. They also serve the community together. In many of our elementary schools, students are assigned to chapel families. In those families, students of multiple ages sit together in worship, get to know one another, enjoy fellowship, and sometimes do mission projects.
In our Lutheran schools, we take our cues for community building not from a national curriculum, but from Scripture. In the book of Acts, right after the account of Pentecost, we read about the fellowship of the believers: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42.) Our Lutheran communities of churches, schools, classrooms, Koinonia groups, and chapel families all benefit from following the example set forth by the early church. Being a member of these communities blesses our students in many ways, one of which is strengthening our students’ social emotional skills.