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The Benefits of Social and Emotional Learning

Oct-20, 2021

Four happy kindergarteners holding flowers and fruit.

As parents, seeing our children express kindness and consideration for others is a major heart-melting moment. We want our kids to be the most popular student in their class, the one everyone admires and wants to be friends with. But how can we help our children to become emotionally mature? Teachers and parents in recent years have turned to Social and Emotional Learning, a system of behavioral training which helps toddlers recognize their emotions, connect to their budding sense of empathy, and shift their mindset from being the center of the universe to a self-aware person within their community.

What is SEL?

SEL stands for social and emotional learning. SEL training helps children to identify and manage their emotions. Children also learn how to relate to one another and work through conflicts. They are also given personal goals for emotional growth. SEL training is designed to set children up for success throughout their lives by emphasizing self-reflection, teamwork, and long-term planning.

By implementing SEL skill building in the classroom and at home, studies have shown that young children have more positive social interactions than their counterparts and are better at managing their own emotions. Teachers incorporate this skill building during lessons, by reading stories designed to teach these skills, and by leading teamwork exercises. There are also resources online for parents who want to incorporate SEL principles and find teachable moments throughout their day, such as during tantrums, interacting with siblings, on playdates, or during times of stress or grief in the household.

The 5 Social and Emotional Learning Skills

  • Self-awareness: Being aware of one’s actions and feelings is the cornerstone of SEL.
  • Self-management: Children learn not only to control their own emotions and actions, but also how to create goals for themselves and stay motivated.
  • Social awareness: Social awareness covers not only treating others the way you would like to be treated, but also learning about how diverse perspectives can affect a person’s feelings and behaviors, and how others might treat them differently.
  • Relationship skills: Children are taught how to relate to one another and how to resolve conflicts.
  • Responsible Decision Making: Actions and consequences are reviewed with children, encouraging them to think long-term about how their behavior and choices will affect their lives as they grow up.

The Benefits of SEL Training

SEL training has many benefits for children of all ages. As you can imagine, mental and emotional health improves in children who learn SEL skills. By having an understanding of their emotions and how their behavior can be affected by their mental state, children become much stronger emotionally, dealing with loss and disappointment without confusion or anger. Children who have underlying mental issues also have a better vocabulary to describe these feelings, which can help with early diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or other diseases some children develop over time. As a parent, you are also better prepared if your child does exhibit these symptoms, and are more likely to seek help and treatment without any stigma.

Since one of the major SEL skills is decision-making, children who have this training tend to have more positive interactions with others and are less likely to react in anger or retaliate against peers or parents. This is helpful as children make and foster friendships, as they interact with strangers and other adults, and when approaching new situations. Sometimes we don’t know the kind of person we are until we’re tested. SEL training prepares children for these uncertainties.

Of course, we also want to point out how improved SEL skills can help our students academically. Firstly, with the emphasis on teamwork, students are more confident in the classroom and more likely to participate in group projects or after school clubs. Secondly, the goal-setting aspect of SEL helps kids succeed with homework, studying, and longer projects. Also, students with SEL training find it easier to focus, ask for help when they need it, and organize and articulate their thoughts.

Book Recommendations to Increase SEL Skills

Books can provide SEL training for children as young as 3. Let’s take a look at some recently published books that help students with their social and emotional learning inside and outside the classroom.

  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (Author) and Noah Z. Jones (Illustrator) for ages 5-8.
  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard (Author) and Oge Mora (Illustrator) for ages 4-8.
  • Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein for ages 3-7.
  • Big Tree is Sick: A Story to Help Children Cope with the Serious Illness of a Loved One by Nathalie Slosse (Author), Rocio del Moral (Illustrator), and Emmi Smid (Translator) for ages 3-7.
  • The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann for ages 3-7.
  • The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds for ages 5-9.
  • Daisy by Jessica Bagley for ages 4-8.
  • Crabby Pants by Julie Gassman (Author) and Richard Watson (Illustrator) for ages 4-6.
  • YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! by Peter Brown for ages 4-8.

What Remote Learning Has Taught Us

Sep-29, 2021

A boy with headphones in taking notes and looking at his laptop.

After over a year of remote learning, teachers and students alike have learned a lot! As we look back at the past year and a half, what lessons can we take away?

There is More Than One Way to Learn

When it comes to educating children, there is no "one size fits all" approach. Each child has individual needs and how they receive and process information is not uniform. While independent students were able to thrive in the format of autonomous learning, those with a more hands-on approach or looking for more guidance were left behind.

Teachers have always been able to adapt their classrooms somewhat to fit the student. With hybrid learning and the urgent need to combat the COVID slide experienced by so many, much more will have to be done. School curriculums have started to pivot towards diversifying the content of each subject, including multi-sensory materials to reach each child in a way that fits them best. Even when school returns to a pre-pandemic format, the lesson to reach every child has been taken to heart.

A Personal Connection is Stronger Than Tech

Though teachers and students may have been separated by distance, going through the pandemic actually encouraged an increase in personal moments, shared virtually. Journaling became a popular touchstone for children and adults alike during the pandemic as a way to document emotions and help process the enormous cultural change we were experiencing. This increase in self-reflection provided opportunities in the classroom to share, discuss and empathize with one another. Students have been more separated than they have ever been, not just missing school due to bad weather but living in near complete isolation away from friends and extended family. Using computers could connect students to their schoolwork, but how could it connect them to each other?

Teachers recognized that the upside to using video conferencing software was that it allowed them to focus more on the faces of their students. It created a more conversational space, one where they could monitor a child’s changing expressions and levels of comfort without spending much of the class time turned around a facing a blackboard. To encourage kids to speak up during lessons, teachers used ice breakers and getting to know you questions to encourage dialogue. Over time, classroom interaction took on a more meaningful purpose beyond imparting knowledge. Many teachers who previously did not engage with their students beyond prompting questions and answers related to the subject material saw the benefit in making a personal connection. The lesson they took away is that creating an empathetic, supportive environment facilitates learning even better than a no-nonsense, straight to the point experience.

Inclusivity is More Important Than Ever

The limitations of technology are felt more keenly by some students than others. Firstly, children who do not have access to reliable internet have been all but cut off completely from online learning, with almost no other way to continue their education until in-person classes resume full time. There had already been a growing education gap between children with internet access and those without, but the pandemic has widened this chasm significantly. Secondly, for the nearly 7 million students with disabilities attending public school in the US, remote learning has proved to be even more difficult. Teachers report that their students are not performing as well and participating in their schoolwork significantly less than they had been pre-pandemic, despite have the same level of interaction and attention as non-disabled students. What’s worse, reports have shown that school districts around the country are no prioritizing getting disabled students back into the classroom, even though they are the demographic which would receive the greatest benefit from returning.

Disability advocates have pointed out many inequities in our culture and in our laws regarding the disabled. Even between school districts, the level of support for these students tends to dip significantly in urban, high poverty schools or schools with high concentrations of students of color. This is a hard lesson to learn, but the data shows us where we can do better. We all hope that as more research is done, school systems will begin to address and correct these issues.

What We Have Learned

Operating our learning centers through the pandemic has been a huge learning experience for us here at Best Brains. We learned how dedicated our staff was, how resilient our students were, and how dedicated their parents were to providing a quality education. We learned that our philosophy of education was keeping kids focused in the classroom, helping them stay confident and present in their lessons. We learned that we could continue to grow despite setbacks and uncertainty. We learned that, even during the worst time, our families still strive to Be Their Best!

Tags COVID-19

The Booming Education Market Continues to Grow

Sep-01, 2021

Two children sit together in the family home office watching a teacher on their computer.

It's a good time to be in the education business right now. Education as a business has been steadily growing for decades. Increased participation from families seeking academic improvement, increased competition for scholarships and internships, and advancements in EdTech (information technology) have made education an increasingly valuable industry. While the global pandemic has affected the education business in many positive ways, it has also accelerated a lot of the issues facing the industry. What are the challenges and the benefits of being employed in and connected to education as a business? Let's look at some factors.

An Expanding Market

Education has been expanding to online avenues as the internet has expanded and become more commonplace in the home. Pre-pandemic, colleges had been at the forefront of using EdTech to connect with students, expand their revenue sources and streamline their operations. But quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19 forced educators to rapidly expand the scope of EdTech to children as young as 3. A wider user base means more customers and a bigger market share. According to a recent study, the online education market is forecast to grow by $247.46 billion by 2024.

But what about those who do not have reliable internet access which makes all of this innovation possible? For some US cities, they are prioritizing investment in digital infrastructure as a way to stay connected. Expanding access and speed is the only way that companies and services which can only be experienced through a reliable, affordable internet connection will continue to see growth.

A Declining Labor Force

We've examined before the teacher shortage occurring in the US today. Much like how positive trends have increased due to COVID, so has this negative trend. Teachers are retiring in higher numbers than ever before, and many teachers are considering leaving the industry much earlier than planned. On top of this, job factors like increased responsibility, rising classroom sizes, and inadequate compensation are discouraging young people from entering the teaching profession at all. So what can be done?

While many districts are offering incentives and sign-on bonuses to new teachers, there are also plans in place on the national level to invest in recruitment and training of teachers to make it easier to enter the profession. The “Grow Your Own” program, which focuses primarily on community recruitment in areas with large populations of color, is going to be expanded, bringing much needed diversity to the American teacher workforce. While conditions are tough for teachers today, this could turn out to be the best time for enthusiastic and passionate people to use these new and expanded resources to enter the field and improve conditions from within.

A Pivot to Upskilling

The education market isn't limited just to children. The continuing and adult education market is also expanding. Upskilling, the process of a worker or a business acquiring new skills, has become much more popular due to the pandemic and the increased need to work online and be digitally connected. Companies are being encouraged by the education industry to invest in education and training for their current labor force, rather than falling into a cycle of employee turnover.

Employees also look at the chance to grow their skills as a company-provided benefit, just like retirement plans or disability insurance. Offering upskilling attracts motivated and ambitious workers to a company and can increase morale and loyalty among a staff. Needless to say, investing in upskilling has holistic benefits for everyone involved. EdTech companies focusing on continuing education are playing a vital role in the overall education market by contributing to a more stable workforce.

Higher Visibility from Parents

Now more than ever, parents are turning to alternative methods like supplemental education and tutoring to keep their kids focused and excelling in school. Official studies have shown that many children received much less day-to-day instruction from virtual learning than they did in person pre-pandemic. Math and English scores have gone down during the pandemic, and children overall are not advancing in knowledge that way that they should.

Tutoring centers have been a major source of help to families struggling with virtual learning. A supplemental education program, like the one offered at Best Brains, engages students 1-on-1 during classes to guarantee participation. Students' progress is highly monitored and parents are given reliable feedback on how their children are performing. Many of the issues parents were facing with school-organized virtual learning were addressed and often overcome in the Best Brains online classroom.

While many schools are offering either a hybrid or completely in-person model for the 2021-2022 school year, the fact remains that, for many children who haven't had the benefit of supplemental education, a lot of work needs to be done to catch them up academically. Parents are now more aware of these services and have more evidence of their efficacy in the form of friends, neighbors, and classmates who have been coping and performing much better thanks to their involvement. Best Brains, which has always held itself to the highest standards in the industry, is prepared to take on more students than ever before, to get them back on track and to provide an environment where every child can Be Their Best.

If you are interested in the benefits of a Best Brains education, you can get started with a FREE placement test today!

Are Hybrid Classrooms Working?

Apr-26, 2021

A girl wearing a facemask sitting at her home desk with the laptop open

Since the beginning of the school year, schools have been experimenting with the hybrid classroom model in an effort to ease students back into the classroom. In a hybrid classroom, some of the attendees are in-person while others are logged in via computer at home. The hybrid classroom, first used in university lecture halls, has been turned to as the solution to help students struggling with distance learning. In a hybrid model, students get face-to-face time with teachers as well as peer interaction. But the hybrid model is not without its criticisms.

First we must ask: how are students and teachers coping with hybrid classrooms? With a lot of difficulty. It's being described as the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds, at the same time. The whole point of hybrid learning is to ensure some face-to-face time with a teacher. But one teacher in a classroom with both in-person and over-the-computer students? This is splitting the teacher's focus and neither set of children is getting the kind of attention they need. Many parents have reported being dissatisfied with the level of engagement their kids are getting during the school day. And in many districts, kids are coming to school only to sit on the computer and continue their learning.

How can parents gain the benefits of sending their kids back to school without the shortcomings of the current model? Best Brains parents have always found tremendous success for their kids by supplementing their education with our weekly classes with guarantee 1-on-1 instruction from real teachers. Since Best Brains is designed to reinforce and broaden knowledge of concepts learn in school, enrolling in Best Brains means that your child will always receive direct communication with a qualified instructor and the time necessary to ask questions, demonstrate ability, and improve skills.

Our centers are opening back up and our teachers are ready to return to face-to-face instruction. Utilizing sanitizing protocols, smaller class sizes and PPE for our staff allows us to safely welcome our kids back to our tables. Our entire business went online back in March 2020 with great success. We will continue to host weekly online classes for up to 3 students in a room guaranteeing that students get the personalized attention they need not matter where they attend class. We have discussed before what needs to be done to make distance learning effective. These are the tactics we have employed in our virtual classrooms to keep kids on track. Now we can provide the same in-person instruction we were known for pre-pandemic as well.

With the Best Brains model, there is no learning curve. We have been carrying on business as usual and business augmented. If you are looking for the 1-on-1 attention needed to make the hybrid classroom work best for your child, consider signing up for Best Brains to ensure they are receiving the highest quality education either in-person or online.

Tags COVID-19

Singapore Math Pros and Cons

Apr-12, 2021

An Asian-American girl holds a pencil and works on homework in her room.

Common Core standards rocked the education world when they were implemented in the early 2010's. Parents especially expressed difficultly in learning new ways to compute and to gain math skills that deviated greatly from the kind of math they'd grown up doing.

Compared to other disciplines, the field of educational studies is a young one. While teaching has been a fundamental aspect of the human experience since the beginning of time, the study of how we learn and acquire knowledge is only a couple centuries old. Therefor there is a lot of room to innovate, experiment and test.

STEM fields, particularly math, have a lot of public discourse surrounding them because of how fundamental STEM is to keeping our modern world running. Improving children's scores in STEM and retaining their interest will be key to producing a global workforce that can meet the challenges of 21st century life.

Currently Singapore's students top worldwide rankings for education while the US sits at 27th place. (Canada sits at a respectable 7th place, way to go!) And a lot of people are looking at the curriculum in Singapore as a potential reason why they're number 1. The Math curriculum in Singapore was first developed in 1982 called Primary Mathematics. In the late 90's, an American company began selling textbooks based on the Primary Mathematics and the "Singapore Math Method" began to grown in popularity.

How does the Singapore Method work?

Singapore Math is largely logic-based. That is, it focuses on problem solving as the key to math understanding. The three-step learning model is as follows:

  • Concrete: Manipulatives like number blocks and other physical representations of quantities.
  • Pictorial: Visual representations s of quantities on paper.
  • Abstract: Conceptual ideas of quantities presented in word problems.

How does the Singapore Math Method compare to Best Brains?

While the Singapore Method has a lot of benefits, they are not exclusive. Maybe of the components of this learning method have been implemented by the Best Brains Math program since Day 1.

  • Utilizing word problems – BOTH
    • Best Brains uses word problems throughout the curriculum to help students strengthen math concepts.
  • Balances conceptual and applied math – BEST BRAINS
    • Beyond word problems, Best Brains creates many real-world applications for students to use that reenforce the concept of the week.
  • Sequential, one concept at a time approach – BOTH
    • Students learn best when they can focus on one concept at a time and perfect it before moving on. Both Best Brains and the Singapore method build on skills without backtracking.
  • Year-round approach – BOTH
    • Singapore students don't have long breaks in between school years, so their curriculum is not designed to account for summer learning loss. This can make school implementation difficult. Best Brains courses are designed to be completed in about 6 months, with no long breaks in between levels.
  • Supports Common Core – BEST BRAINS
    • While Common Core does seem to have taken some design inspiration from the Singapore Math Method, many student, parents and teacher report confusion when trying to utilize the textbooks in the classroom. Additionally, teachers using Singapore math require ongoing training, and must purchase new textbooks yearly. Best Brains is designed to strengthen Common Core concepts without overburdening students or teachers, making for efficient learning sessions at an affordable price.

When it comes to educational studies, there is always room for improvement and innovation. Our curriculum team and staff of teachers across the US and Canada are consistently looking for opportunities to make the Best Brains experience better for everyone.

Is the COVID slide affecting your child's math grades? Sign up for a free diagnostic test and learn how Best Brains can get them back on track with a customized learning plan.

Why is Teaching a Female-Dominated Field?

Mar-15, 2021

A young teacher helping a girl read a book during class.

When you think of a teacher, what sort of person do you visualize? Someone patient with a kind smile? Someone poised and professional? Does the person you’re thinking of change when "teacher" becomes "professor?"

Since the pandemic, many conversations have been had regarding the rights, safety, and role of teachers in our schools. From picking up the pieces of administrations unequipped to handle remote learning to protesting against safety measures pushing kids back into schools, teachers have been making headlines. Since 2016, experts have warned of the growing supply and demand problem that schools would be facing over the next ten years. Reports show that the COVID crisis has only sped up this problem, with 1 in 3 teachers polled planning to retire early than usual. As fewer and fewer new teachers enter the field, keeping these veteran teachers in classrooms as long as possible can no longer be counted on to help this issue.

Teachers suffer low pay, little respect, and more and more pressure from all sides. And for many, the reason is a consequence of the teaching profession being largely populated by women. Today, 3 out of 4 public school teachers in the United States are women, and 97% of early childhood educators are women. Consequently, ECE has the lowest pay of all grade levels. This imbalance of power is also felt in administration and post-secondary education, where men make up the majority.

Historically, the teaching profession became an acceptable career path for women starting in the mid-1800's, when women seeking employment was more of a rarity. Before public school system were put into place, women were expected to teach children basic athematic, language arts, history, and life science. When public schools were established throughout the country, women were sought out for their discipline, personal accountability, and what was seen as a natural nurturing ability needed for young children sent out of the home and into the classroom. And women heeded the call, gaining financial freedom they could never had gotten any other way, a sense of purpose in helping educate the children in their care, and pride in their work and accomplishments. It was women who formed teachers’ unions to ensure fairer pay, safer working conditions, smaller class sizes, and more. Even with the advances that unions have made over the past 100 years, expert can draw many parallels between teachers at the turn of the last century and the early part of this one.

Being a woman is not a prerequisite to being a great teacher. But it’s undeniable that the traits and behaviors that society encourages women to display are assets in the classroom. This can make things very difficult for male teachers, especially of young children, who face suspicion, disrespect, and uncertainty in their chosen field. Anyone with a passion to impart knowledge and the skills to help a child understand new concepts should feel confident in their career, and no one should undervalue the hard work and dedication that goes into being a teacher. As a parent, being involved in your child’s education is about more than monitoring progress, participating in parent-teacher meetings, and helping out with the occasional fundraiser. It’s about being an advocate for education, for your own child as well as their peers. It involves supporting the teachers who dedicate their lives to improving your child’s, being an advocate for them, and demanding that they be treated with the same respect and consideration that you expect for yourself. Parents and teachers have the same goal: to help kids to Be Their Best. Together, we can make that happen every single day!