Aspengrove is, at its core, an educational institution, so it’s easy to assume that academia is our priority. Of course educating our students is our goal. But academia is nothing without a community to support it. The social and emotional support of our students is the foundation of what we do. We’re not just teaching math or science – we’re building compassionate and knowledgeable citizens. At Aspengrove, our students, faculty, and parents are united by a communal belief that a safe, pro-social environment will benefit our students in more than just their academic pursuits. It’ll support their social and emotional growth, which will develop them into resilient, passionate, and capable people.
Our Assistant Head, Sarah Marshall, is passionate about social emotional learning. Social emotional learning teaches students to acquire and apply the knowledge and skills to understand and manage their own emotions, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. “Social emotional learning helps students to develop positive, protective relationships. ‘Social’ is about interacting with others, and ‘emotional’ is about the student themself,” says Marshall.
A pro-social school environment creates a space where students are comfortable being vulnerable with their teachers and classmates, which enables them to push out of their comfort zones and think outside the box. Our faculty is dedicated to promoting creativity and initiative in everything our students do – and that includes promoting a positive learning environment for their fellow pupils. “The staff work on their own emotional literacy and social skills too. It’s not alway comfortable work,” says Marshall, “but it’s important to practice what we expect of our students.” This doesn’t mean there’s no unkind behaviour at Aspengrove. Like any school, students sometimes don’t get along. But our staff uses tactics such as assertiveness training and boundary setting to help students communicate and work through conflict.
A commitment to the school’s community, shared between all of our students, means that all students have the opportunity to risk failure and take chances to learn, with no fear of negativity or judgment. “Relationships, and the trust that comes from building those relationships, are the bedrock of our community. Whether between the Kindergarten teacher and her students, a grade two student and her big buddy in grade nine, or a Chemistry teacher and his senior class, trust allows us to lived shared values, take risks in learning, and fail safely,” says Marshall.
At Aspengrove, errors or failures are seen as opportunities to grow and learn. Our students put it best: it’s “cool” to excel. This mindset creates an emotionally supportive space for students. Imagine an assembly where every twelfth grade student is riveted as the primary choir performs. This is a real, everyday scenario at Aspengrove. Our student community celebrates and supports each other. They treat each other with respect and compassion – just as our school values confirm.
Of course, parents play a significant role in the Aspengrove community as well. Ongoing collaboration between parents and teachers provides the best possible environment for students to learn both emotionally and academically. Students of various learning styles, interests, and abilities all have the opportunity to excel thanks to this supportive community. “We are proud to consult with students and their parents to set the bar at the right level for that child. Our role is to stretch and challenge each child, while making sure they have the support they need,” says Marshall.
At Aspengrove, we believe that academic institutions need to provide an emotionally and mentally supportive environment to our students. Luckily, the entire community at Aspengrove agrees. “Time after time, students say the relationships in our community, between students and teachers, is the number one reason they love Aspengrove,” says Marshall. This compassion and support are built into our school culture, and as a result, our students thrive.
If you would like to hear more about the supportive community at Aspengrove, please get in touch.
Mrs. Marshall and her daughter who is a 2018 Aspengrove graduate, currently a pre-med student in university.
Relationships, and the trust that comes from building those relationships, are the bedrock of our community. Whether between the Kindergarten teacher and her students, a grade two student and her big buddy in grade nine, or a Chemistry teacher and his senior class, trust allows us to lived shared values, take risks in learning, and fail safely.Sarah Marshall