Transferring Skills From the Classroom to Life

Marina Belousova
Lead Teacher
SFK Russia

Imagine that you are asked to eat a bowl of Cheerios with one hand hidden behind your back and the other holding a spoon, keeping your elbow and wrist straight. What would be your first reaction?

And now imagine a class of primary school children sitting in pairs with a bowl of Cheerios between them, trying to solve this problem. Visualize them trying and exploring until one of them stumbles on the idea to feed the other. Picture the excitement when the others pick up on the idea, and feel the warmth and happiness when they realize that the best way to have your own needs taken care of is by caring for another person. This is just one of the many life tools that children acquire in Success For Kids classes.

SFK is a child-focused, nonprofit international organization with an established reputation. The mission of SFK is to provide free outreach classes to schools and community centers that empower children to manage life’s challenges. SFK’s mission is to give children the tools to realize their full potential. SFK teaches problem solving, self-esteem, social competence skills, and gives a sense of autonomy and direction to build emotional intelligence. These are the foundations necessary for leading a meaningful life, regardless of whether or not children come from “normal” or underprivileged backgrounds.

This is accomplished using the curriculum that is aimed at getting difficult concepts and notions over to children from 7 years old to 12 years old as a base. Each lesson is held in a very interactive way. In groups of 10 to 15, children tell stories, play games, watch puppet shows and create art projects.

The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions to address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world, has conducted a multi-site, quantitative evaluation of SFK programs measuring behavioral outcomes based on the well-known BASC-2 system for children. It found that the program had beneficial effects on virtually every domain covered by the BASC-2. In particular, the program had medium to large effects on adaptive skills which include adaptability, social skills, leadership, study skills, and communication skills. Of significant interest is the finding that the program positively affected school-related outcomes, even though SFK is not an academic intervention. Specifically, the program improved reported study skills and reduced reported learning problems and attention problems.

Last year, SFK Russia raised initial funds from a handful of private individuals for the pilot, and reached out to over 430 children in Moscow and Moscow region, across three schools and three orphanages, giving children tools for self-awareness and transforming their reactive behavior into a proactive and sharing choices. Two teachers with degrees and years of experience working children from all backgrounds, with the help of caring volunteers and in cooperation with the host institutions’ staff, create a fun learning atmosphere for the kids to test some of the concepts in practice and generate insights about how to deal with each other. Positive feedback from school staff, parents and children proves that the pilot year has yielded strong results.

One mother of two school-aged boys who took the program shared her experiences with me. “The other day, I was getting really impatient with my boys as they were going back and forth between their room and the hallway as we were leaving for the first trial class at a new boxing club,” she said. “They had been looking forward to it, albeit with apprehension, but their sneakers, t-shirts and street clothes were all over the place. Of course, I started to chivy them and raise my voice. Is it not the standard scenario played out in front of us by our grandmas, parents, schoolteachers, as well as in books and movies? Then, out of the blue, my 9-year old says, ‘Mom, right now you are reacting automatically, shouldn’t you stop?’ This was disarming, because he was so right. I stopped and we left all packed-up and smiling in no time. This was one of the SFK lessons in action. I would recommend it to everyone.”