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Social Emotional Learning

by Steve Maas
Thursday, January 9, 2020

In November 2019, Megan Andrews, Karin Church, and I attended a professional development workshop with Marc Brackett, founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The day reminded us of the importance of emotional intelligence and provided us with new ways to help our students learn about their emotions. We know that emotions impact learning and were reminded that there are no bad emotions and that emotions provide information. We can use that information to help ourselves and each other. Providing students direct instruction on how to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate emotions can help in many ways. This R.U.L.E.R. approach is the basis of Brackett’s work. If our kids can know and manage themselves and consider the perspectives of others, they may be able to make sound personal and social choices. 

Being patient, responsive, and loving, while holding children to a high standard, is much easier if we as adults are able to manage, understand, and accept our own emotions and know that our emotional state will affect how we perceive a situation. Learning is a social activity and is most productive through collaboration. Maria Montessori gave us a solid foundation with many lessons on what she called grace and courtesy. Young children are shown how to quietly push in a chair, walk through the classroom without disturbing another child’s work, and even how to blow their nose. The Montessori curriculum at every level explicitly uses modeling and stories to teach social behavior. Children have many opportunities daily to collaborate with classmates and practice social skills. Older students act out social situations demonstrating successful or unsuccessful ways to interact with others. Adults tell stories hoping to inspire good deeds. 

We learned that one in five American children will experience a mental health issue before they reach eighteen. By taking the time to get to know children and building strong relationships with them, we hope to help stem this tide. Greeting each student in the morning with a handshake, allowing time to discuss feelings, and guiding actions all help to build trusting caring relationships.