Social and emotional learning is part of a well-balanced elementary school curriculum. It is not an “add on,” but rather a vital and integrated teaching and modeling approach, fostering a safe learning environment that helps to increase students’ academic achievement. There is a strong relationship between the academic skills needed to be 21st century learners, common core standards, and social/emotional balance.
Marin Preparatory School uses ideas gleaned from the Responsive Classroom, a well-thought-out and long-practiced curriculum for social and emotional teaching. The advantage of using such a program school wide is that there is commonality in language and practice from year to year. Over time this becomes part of the child’s vocabulary and way of seeing the world.
This integration of academics and social/emotional learning is key to the development of the whole child. From the early years of schooling, the ability to be self-aware and to manage one’s self is modeled in classrooms and at home. Children are taught to identify and recognize emotions — both their own and others. They learn self-efficacy and the ability to control oneself. As they progress, their ability to self-motivate and self-discipline become more frequent. With adult guidance, children can set goals, and become more organized. In the academic arena we see these skills play out in the development and strengthening of writing by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, and trying new approaches.
Children in the elementary years work on relationship skills. They learn to communicate, engage socially in appropriate ways, and build relationships. They become cooperative workers, learning to negotiate; asking for help and managing conflict appropriately. The integration of these skills into academics allows students to participate in a wide range of conversations, interacting with students with varying opinions. Students learn to work with diverse partners, build on others’ contributions and ideas, and then express their ideas clearly. As they become older, these skills allow them to become persuasive with their writing and voice.
From the earliest school experiences we want children to develop into responsible decision makers. They need to understand a problem and decide how best to tackle that problem. It requires the ability to evaluate, reflect and plan. Students learn that there is personal responsibility and from there they can move to social and ethical responsibility in the broader community. In academics this translates into making sense of a variety of problems and persevering as they attempt to solve them, using a variety of tactics.
As children learn to be more socially aware, they practice empathy and they learn the value of accepting differences in others and respecting others. In the academic arena this translates into learning that language is powerful. They need to make choices for both meaning and style, both in writing and in conversation. We hope that as they progress they will comprehend more fully both when they are reading and when they are listening.
In essence, our academic, social and emotionally integrated program is preparing children to be successful as they navigate the K-8 years and beyond. Over the next couple of years, we hope to incorporate elements on “mindfulness” into our program. In the purest definition, “mindfulness” is the act of being fully present in the moment, giving undivided attention to the person or task at hand. In schools, it is a powerful mindset. We will explore “mindfulness” in greater detail in a future blog. The relationship between home and school, providing consistent messages is important. For more information on Responsive Classroom, I invite you to visit www.responsiveclassroom.org.
-Señor Jeff Escabar