By: Olivia Di Dio, First Grade Teacher
A difference, a point or way in which people or things are not the same. This is a topic that is consistently relevant during any stage of life. From how our physical differences make us unique. To how our strengths in academics, sports, friendships, and more allow us to share our passions with others. Currently, learning at home as opposed to learning at school which makes us adapt and grow as a community of learners. All of these differences make us stronger as individuals and as a community.
Learning about differences makes us more empathetic of others and, more importantly, allows us to embrace differences as a learning opportunity. As a teacher of first graders, I see students embracing each other's differences daily, as they naturally see each other as equals. I have heard students say “He is really good at soccer, but I am an excellent artist”. In moments like this it is evident that the students are aware of those differences that have made them, and others, stronger as individuals and as a whole. Rather than being disappointed or upset about one student excelling in one area, they are acknowledging their peers strengths and their own.
As a school community, ASFM strives to teach students to embrace differences and use them as learning opportunities. We teach Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons focused on empathy, self awareness, and awareness of others. Teaching SEL lessons directly through books, skits, and practice make our children aware of how to approach differences with value. These lessons transfer into real life situations both inside and outside of the classroom. Providing moments that teachers and parents can apply SEL learning to situations that shape how students view differences in others and in things. Who would want to live in a world where everyone was exactly the same? Or, one in which we all shared the same areas of strength and weakness? Or, one in which each moment we experience is no different than the next? How boring!
An understanding that differences make us stronger has allowed for us as a school to move into distant learning during this pandemic. We are embracing different types of learning platforms and using each other's strengths to learn and grow. This new and different type of learning is something that we will all come out of stronger. More empathetic, more aware, more adaptable, and more understanding of each other's needs.