20 Feb Social and emotional skills: A pathway to success; a gift for a lifetime
I once asked a group of teachers to turn off their cel phones at the beginning of a social skills workshop. One person, seated in the back, raised his hand and asked if he could leave his phone on since this was a social skills workshop and he was going to be using social media. I thought he was joking but I wasn’t certain. I told him he could silence his phone if he chose. He left it on and texted for most of the next two hours. In today’s contemporary world of communication where facetime means looking at a screen instead of someone’s face, and a trip to the bank or to the gas station involves putting a card into a machine instead of having an in-person exchange, formalized human relationship skill building must be a critical area of focus in our work as teachers.
In 1995 Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence (EI) created a national stir as to what EI or EQ was and whether or not it could be taught. In his book, Goleman articulated emotional intelligence as a “new kind of intelligence” that if cultivated, could alter the emotional lives of people in profound and positive ways. He also theorized that children in contemporary culture had lower EQ, because they had more opportunities for less social interaction.
In this age of standards, high-stakes testing, curriculum stressors, and societal pressures on students and educators, classroom time is precious. When only academic performance is measured, and evaluated, it can seem overwhelming to take time out of the school day to meet students’ social and emotional needs. But when those needs are met, students feel excited about the discoveries each new day will bring; achievement soars; behaviors such as bullying, name-calling and teasing diminish; and the classroom functions more efficiently and effectively.
In Dr. Goleman’s book, he highlights specific school districts that were utilizing the research on emotional intelligence for a variety of programs and initiatives ranging from creating a caring classroom community to training students in conflict resolution skills. His book made the point that schools needed to place as much emphasis on emotional intelligence as they did on academic achievement, that in fact they were directly related.
Dr. Goleman’s passion and devotion to the emotional well-being of children lead to a new movement in education known as social and emotional learning (SEL). In our work at Teaching Empathy Institute, we focus on creating schools of belonging that are grounded in SEL principles. A School of Belonging is an SEL culture building process intended to create a staff consciousness regarding the relationship between social and emotional learning and student achievement. Consistency of practice becomes a critical cultural norm as all staff members have the same mind-set: that working with children involves working with the whole child and a part of that whole deals with the social and emotional development of the students.
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