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The Hidden Curriculum

By: Remote Learning Coordinator/School Counselor Martha Hyland

April 28, 2021

Children are captivating, complex, beautiful creatures with a hunger to learn and to share all the exciting things they are learning. Just last week, as I was taking temperatures for morning carpool, I heard a Lower School student working through their math facts. Their older sibling hopped out of the car, corrected the younger sibling’s math, and happily walked into the building reciting more complex math to themself. It was the perfect picture of a Rossman student. Ask any of our students to tell you something about science, or social studies, or grammar, and they would be able to dazzle you with all sorts of information that has soaked into their growing brains. But there’s one “subject” that they might not be able to put into words ... the hidden curriculum.

This curriculum is not unique to Rossman. In fact, all of us are lifelong students of the hidden curriculum. It targets the growth of our social-emotional intelligence, which Tim Elmore describes as, “the sum total of our self-awareness + self-management + social awareness + relationship management”. We call it “hidden” because it is not taught through lectures, or measured through assessments. It is learned through our daily interactions and through social successes and failures. In a year of unprecedented social isolation, our children have missed out on many of the normal daily interactions that grow and strengthen their social-emotional muscles. Here are a few tips to become a teacher of the hidden curriculum as you help nurture your child's emotional literacy through a strong parent-child dialogue.

Learn when your child best engages in conversation.
Some questions to ask yourself are: Is my child a morning person, or do they prefer to chat when I am putting them to bed at night? Do questions fluster them and shut them down, or do they need guiding questions to help them get started in a conversation? Do they prefer sitting and having a conversation, or do they pour their heart out while being active? Are they talkative when they get in the car after school, or do they need time to decompress? Knowing when they are at their interactive best will help you to have more intentional and successful conversations.

Listen, but also teach. 
Fred Rogers once said, “We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears”. Body language that shows you are engaged and interested is a great teaching tool! Additionally, nothing will help get a child talking more than knowing they have your undivided attention. While you actively listen, you can also coach your child by asking questions to help fill in the blanks of their story. Some guiding questions could be:

- Who was there?
- How did he/she respond to that situation?
- How would you have responded if that happened to you?
- What part did you play in that situation? 

By asking guiding questions you are able to both gauge your child's social awareness and give them tools for their own future communication. As you listen to their story, reflect back what they have told you. For example, “It sounds like you were upset that Johnny took your ball. I’d love to hear how you two solved that problem.”

Avoid open ended questions. 
We’ve all been there. You sit in the carpool line, anticipating seeing your child after eight hours apart. They climb in and you say, “How was your day?!” and you are met with a grunt as the car door slams. This is a sure sign that your child has hit an emotional wall. After giving them a few minutes to decompress, try asking more targeted questions. Instead of asking, “How was school?” try, “tell me something that made you laugh today.” Instead of, “How was your math test?” try starting with, “What were the hardest and the easiest parts of your math test?” In doing this, you are training your child to give you specific details and context as well as opening the door to continued conversation. 

Be encouraged! The conversations you are having daily with your children have the potential to carry a lifelong benefit. Nurturing their social-emotional development will not only benefit your child, it will also benefit your relationship with them through the many seasons of your life together.


Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in St. Louis, is a private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills.​ Request a free Rossman School brochure here.

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