The Grade 8 students of Ecole Fox Run recently took part in an invaluable program that teaches emotional and social intelligence.
Get Real – a program that was developed after founder Wendy Walker attended an anti-suicide seminar and wanted to do something to help – focuses on teaching children about the struggles that everyone is going through and to be empathetic of that struggle. To use the terms of the program, everyone has an ‘emotional backpack’ and it’s up to everyone not make these backpacks heavier with negativity.
Stuart Swanson, program facilitator for Get Real at Fox Run stressed the importance of this program for young adults about to enter high school.
“The community here today helps students realize they need to treat each other better because they have so much going on in their life,” Swanson said. “We don’t need to make each other’s lives worse. I think it’s important because schools will focus on academics and sports, whereas a day like this focuses on emotional and social intelligence.”
He added that society often assumes students have this emotional intelligence rather then ensuring they do by teaching it to them.
“We play games. We talk about it. We create a common language and we give students an opportunity to ask for forgiveness,” Swanson said. “We try to bring awareness to community pain and the difficulties everyone faces. We try to push people to do different things and behave differently.”
The experience was an eye-opener for many students including Molly Cocks.
“I had no idea what a lot of people were going through and it was really eye opening to see people’s struggles,” she said. “I had no idea because people put a smile on their face.”
She added she intends to be more cognizant and help others who may be are struggling.
Another student, Matteo Montalto added it’s a good to know what people have in their ‘back packs’ that you can’t see on the outside.
Student Jory Neish added people have really hard lives and it helps you see that your life maybe isn’t as bad as you thought.
Megan Helmer, Family School Wellness worker for Fox Run was happy to see the lessons that Get Real brought to the school.
“It creates community and commonality in this school,” she said. “It breaks down isolation and they can carry these lessons into adulthood.”
She added Get Real is a fluid day with lessons and language that can be used throughout the year by all students and staff at Fox Run.
Helmer wanted to thank Sylvan Lake FCSS and the Rotary Club of Sylvan lake for helping fund this project which has caused a “decrease in incidences of bullying because students are more aware of what others are going through.”
Swanson is always pleased with the results of the Get Real Program.
“Students love the program,” he said “They aren’t given the opportunity to talk about their emotions or the pain they feel in their lives. This gives them a venue to talk about that.”