On December 8, the annual Bank Street Safe & Sound Schools Conference welcomed hundreds of teachers, caregivers, social workers, and administrators for a day of collaboration and study of Emotionally Responsive Practice in school settings. The conference featured a keynote presentation by Lesley Koplow, GSE ’79, Director of Emotionally Responsive Practice at Bank Street College, followed by hands-on interactive workshops for participants that focused on techniques for building safe and empathic school communities.
In her keynote, “Why Children Go To The Nurse: The Search for A Safe Haven in School,” Koplow noted that children who seek respite from the classroom are often looking for comfort and relief from the anxieties and pressures in their lives. “Perhaps children’s need for a safe haven in school has gotten more intense as our nation’s social policies have gotten less protective of children and families and more regressive in the commitment to valuing our country’s diverse population,” she said.
Koplow emphasized the power of strong, responsive, adult-child relationships in school. She reminded the group that children need developmental partners at every age and stage in order to accomplish and strengthen the developmental milestones that underlie social and emotional well-being.
“Being with children, and offering them the symbolic tools they need to make sense of what happens in their lives within relationships, is a powerful foundation for resilience,” said Koplow. “Responsive relationships can buffer stress over time and free children’s cognitive capacities, as well as enhance the development of peer connection and empathy.”
Koplow noted that many schools are working tirelessly to support a growing number of children who need emotional support, which can be challenging with limited resources. She encouraged the practitioners in the audience to focus on instilling trust and helping children to feel safe, which leads to greater potential for learning, positive socialization, and mental health.
The event offered several breakout sessions led by staff from Emotionally Responsive Practice at Bank Street as well as working teachers and administrators. Topics included The Power of Transitional Objects: Teddy Bears in the Classroom, Emotionally Responsive Literacy, Working with Children’s Immigration Stories in the Classroom, Stories from the Classroom: Teachers Talk About Experiences with ERP, ERP for Children in Upper Grades and Middle School, and Promoting Empathy and Resiliency: Creating an Emotionally Responsive Infant, Toddler and Twos Classroom, among others.
Attendees left the conference with a deepened understanding of the social and emotional foundations for learning as well as the powerful strategies for building responsive relationships and creating school communities where children can grow and thrive.