Dr. Ring appeared in the Memphis Business Journal to share how modern-day skill building includes navigating technology in positive ways and how Hutchison is launching a new program for 4th through 12th graders called #WinatSocial.
Q: Why is it important to prioritize social-emotional health?
We believe that to thrive academically, girls need to be thriving socially and emotionally – to have a sense of belonging. Beginning in early childhood, we have a social-emotional program that teaches our girls age-appropriate ways to live in a community with each other and equips them with the skills to build meaningful connections and trusting relationships. In preschool, we’ll celebrate a girl who connects with a friend who is having a bad day; in middle school that translates to teaching skills to stop gossip and unkind behaviors. While our three full-time counselors and our director of student inclusion and belonging spearhead our work, every adult on campus understands the priority we place on our girls’ social-emotional health and the role each of us plays in helping the girls develop critical life skills that go beyond academics.
Q: How do academics fit in?
Academics are always front and center, but without a strong sense of self and the ability to make responsible decisions and develop healthy relationships, we know that girls are likely to struggle.
Q: What do you think is the greatest emotional challenge children face today?
Young people are dealing with a lot these days, but I would say that technology, particularly social media, is THE common thread that we definitely need to address. Recent studies indicate that adolescent girls say they are less happy because of social media. The idea that something that is so common in today’s culture can negatively impact a girl’s self-worth is sad. It is very concerning to me as an educator and a parent.
Q: What is Hutchison doing about social media’s influence on students’ lives?
I am very excited about #WinAtSocial, a program we have just introduced for 4th through 12th graders that is designed to help young people interact with social media and technology in positive ways. We can’t ignore the impact of technology in children’s lives and just hope they won’t be influenced by social media or that they will eventually lose interest. It is here to stay, and we need to help our girls learn to use it in positive and well-balanced ways.
Q: How do we start?
It starts with healthy conversations at school and at home. #WinAtSocial is an interactive curriculum that encourages meaningful discussions. For example, 7th graders are asked to discuss how we grow from our mistakes, and at home, they are asked to discuss rebounding from inappropriate posts or comments.
Q: So parents actively participate in this program?
Yes! That is what we like about this program. Parents can follow along and continue these discussions at home. Social media has changed the dynamics of how adolescents socialize, how they experience peer pressure, etc. For parents, social media adds a new level of complexity, and there is always a shiny new app that stumps parents but is immediately embraced by their children. We are fortunate to have very engaged parents at Hutchison. We approach everything as a partnership with our parents, but we don’t dictate how to parent. The #WinAtSocial parent toolkit allows families to adapt the at-home lessons to align with their family’s values.
Q: Schools are facing so many challenges with the pandemic, why start a new program now?
At Hutchison, we differentiate ourselves by being equally vested in a girl’s intellectual, physical, and social wellbeing. We will revise or expand an academic program or class if we feel we need to make changes to better prepare girls for success in today’s world. Parents expect that from us. This is one of those evolutions, but in the realm of social-emotional learning. As educators, we need to be flexible and meet challenges as they arise.
Q: What qualities do you look for in a teacher?
A successful teacher must be so much more than a content expert. I look for individuals who have keen emotional intelligence and the desire to connect with students in a meaningful manner. It is critical that each girl at Hutchison genuinely feels valued and known, and that takes effort and commitment. Having adults in roles that support students outside of classroom instruction is part of the culture of HutchisonYou can view the print version of the Q&A here.