Silence Speaks

IMG_0401Lately, I’ve been intrigued by what children and adolescents, really learner of any age, says by their inactions. You know, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them them: the twirling of their hair while they are speaking, the chewing of the pen as they learn, or the constant tap tap tapping of their feet. Those things. 

When I was a little girl, I was captivated by reading people, learning their behaviors and mannerisms that would help me understand how or what they were saying. Now, it seems I am captivated by how all of these little things can add up into understanding them better as learners: how they learn best, and more importantly, what we, as the adults in their lives, can to do to form a bond that helps them become super heroes in their own right.

We can’t begin to convince ourselves that learning, understanding the learning process , is not connected to our feelings. When you think of how learning and feelings are connected, imagine one of those three metal rings that the magician at the classic birthday parties used to have. Somehow they are separate, each in their own right holding meaning and value. And try as you might you cannot unconnect them,  until they are all brought into one entity, a solid silver metal ring, that when given the right emotional attention, will release into their separate selves.    

Now take the same magician, except now  visualize each ring as one that is held by a learner: one representing their thoughts of what they are learning, the second how they feel about how or what they are learning, and the third, what they are doing while they are learning. The trick  seem a bit more complicated now, doesn’t it?

Just as no magician divulges his or her secrets to their greatest tricks, nor should children need to explain or validate the value they hold in, or how or what they feel and learn.

Life is a circus of not just many performers, but acts as well. For some we may see the life of our learner as their one act, wanting them to not experience the feelings of fault, failure, or defeat. But aren’t their more than one acts in our circuses? Don’t we all want our learners to be nothing but successful? Then let them be able to juggle not just their three rings, but maybe look at these three rings of what is said and not said in their mind, how they feel about their thoughts, and what actions they are making. 

Now the next time a magician performs this trick, and roar of the crowd begins to swell, think of all the juggling that children and adolescents do while learning, sometimes without immediate feedback, applause, or without any noise at all.

 

 

Understanding SEL in the Spotlight

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Social emotional learning is certainly become quite a buzz word lately. Efforts have been made at the local level in several organizations to make social and emotional learning more of a well-known concept that is not only grasped, but a movement that teachers are thirsty for more of. Organizations like the Collaboration for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL)  have made it their mission to define and dissect the competencies of social emotional learning and how they should be integral component of not just within the classroom walls, but outside as well.

Often times the concept of  social emotional learning is intertwined in the world of educational and education services. For example, the Every Student Succeeds Act was  introduced to establish a set of academic competencies for students, including social and emotional competencies. For this author, this thrills me to end because it connects both the heart and the mind in the learning process. Children should be able to emotionally brilliant and feel good about themselves and others while soaring academically. 

Other various government bills such as S. 897, named after the six-year-old student Jesse Lewis who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School,  have made an addendum to pre-existing educational reforms or acts to include provisions that involve school-wide professional development to ensure that all adults involved in children’s lives at school have the well-needed tools and training to not only understand but implement the principles and concepts of social emotional learning.

All of these efforts  imply that there has been work made beyond the classroom walls, that teachers have more than a fundamental grasp of what it means when the term social emotional learning is used at school. I do think that there is a thirst for teachers and professionals to want to integrate these concepts in the learning process, but that comes with a waning feeling felt by teachers of already feeling taxed and burdened by what is already being asked of them. What I wish I could shout out across the buildings for everyone to hear is that if you are teaching your child well, either in our outside the classroom, you are already doing this. Teach your child to love not just others, but themselves for not just who they are, but what and how they learn.

Nonprofits like Un-included Project empower children to increase their self-esteem and self-worth through engagement both academically and emotionally in various arenas. Efforts made nationally reflect the desire to include social emotional learning and concepts into the academic and professional development framework for both teachers and students.  I am more thrilled that it has reached national attention, but if this is all about the children, let’s start with them. 

For more information on Social Emotional Learning please visit:

Collaboration for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Emotional Intelligence As Standard Intelligence

Neuroscience Behind Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning