I read Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, a number of years ago. With all of the buzz around Social Emotional Learning in education, I recently decided to pick it back up and give it a re-read. And I could not believe how shocked I was!
Goleman’s words spoke to the solution that we need in education. I found myself nodding and muttering ‘yes’ aloud as I read. Goleman writes about studies that reported dropping levels of student emotional competence. A need for Social Emotional Learning core curriculum, intervention, and prevention supports in schools.
Emotional Intelligence is a call to action for Social Emotional Learning...
But it was written in 1995!
One of my biggest takeaways from the book - besides the fact that I will never understand why education is always so far behind - is that relationships are key!
Relationships, and the skills they entail, are the one commonality of all prevention programs for at-risk students. And at-risk students often demonstrate lagging emotional competencies as well as acting out behaviors. But if we can teach these students how to initiate, maintain, and develop healthy relationships, we can change their futures.
Relationships are at the core of humanity, and in order to be a productive adult, you must be able to successfully navigate interactions and relationships with others. Further, research has shown that relationships provide protection against stress, and stress has a negative impact on daily function and health.
The obstacle to this being the easiest solution EVER in education is that many students are lagging the Social Emotional competencies to develop relationships with others. The core Social Emotional skills teach the initiation, development, and maintenance of healthy relationships. Healthy relationships are the pervasive outcome that is intertwined within and the outcome of ALL Social Emotional Learning competences.
On the first day of my very first day teaching, one of my students pointed out all of the holes in the classroom walls along with the broken shelves, windows, and doors that he had done the year before. He shared these achievements with me in the same way that others might brag about an award they won. But these were his accomplishments. These were the things that defined him as a student in that school. But based upon his attendance for his school career, he could barely be defined as a student.
And my response was going to be what defined our relationship that year. My response had the opportunity to change his life forever.
I decided that he might want an opportunity to someone different that year, and I decided to make that choice for him. "Well, you won't be doing any of that this year," I said with a serious smile - followed by an uncomfortably long moment for my words to resonate.
And from that moment forward, he showed up to school.
Some days he showed up hungover from the night before. Some days he showed up and slept until noon. One day he showed up wearing fuzzy pink slippers he forgot he was wearing when he rushed out of the house to get to school. But he showed up!
And we had a great relationship! He was such a smart kid who just needed someone to find that one thing that would hook him and engage him in education. (And not be intimidated by him to call him out on his behavior). And once we found it, the world was full of opportunities for him!
As educators, we have so many chances to help our students. Every moment counts! Even if it's online!
Fast forward 15 years and I had the pleasure of crossing paths with him again. He had graduated high school, had a full time job, and a family!
Okay, so we all know Newton's law right? You know - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, with students, this law is slightly different - for every interaction with a student, there is a reaction. And from a series of interactions, a teacher can develop a strong relationship with a student.
And this relationship, in and of itself should model emotional competences for student learning. We can further our student’s emotional competencies by explicitly teaching Social Emotional Learning standards.
By Miss Rae