All things exist in relationship. We cannot expect to understand the health of a plant, or a human, without understanding the context in which it lives, breathes and grows. In the same way, we cannot expect to implement effective educational reform without understanding the equally intricate web of relationships present in a classroom, school, and community.
What do a French philosopher, a modern neurologist, and trees have to do with emotional intelligence?
First, that we must stop trying to understand and teach emotional intelligence through the lens of thought alone.
We may not be able to see, touch, feel, or even measure the immediate impact of teaching a lesson on mindfulness, active listening, or self-compassion. And, in truth, the work is difficult, messy, ambiguous, and outside the comfort zone of many adults still grappling with their own emotional intelligence. As long as we remain clear on our why, however, we will find our how.
Life moves in a series of rhythms. In each day there is a natural rhythm to the rising and setting of the sun, and in each year there is a rhythm to the passing of seasons. Even closer to home, life itself depends on the ever-changing rhythm of our heart and lungs. And, in our daily lives, we experience the varied rhythms of stress, productivity, relaxation, rest, and pleasure.
One of the most common questions I am asked by educators in regards to social and emotional learning (SEL) is, “How do I generate buy-in at my school?” Given that buy-in has been established as one of the single most important factors for the success of an SEL program this is an important question. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are asking the wrong question.
If happiness is the most universally desired outcome for our children, then we would do well to honestly and objectively examine the question: “Are we creating the causes and conditions that are most likely to lead to happiness for our children?”
When students feel unsafe they don’t learn. So, how can we support students in the face of such global tension? Is there anything that we can do as educators and parents to create a sense of safety?
Absolutely. The same principles for effective treatment and prevention of trauma hold true here. Here are five practices to support your students (and yourself) following a tragic event.
Effective SEL is about so much more than any lesson or curriculum. It is inherent in every interaction in the building and in the very culture of the school. It is not enough for teachers to be bought-in if the school administration does not provide them with the time, coaching, incentive, and support to deliver high-quality SEL instruction. It is not enough to provide high-quality instruction if school culture and discipline practices do not reflect social-emotional competence, or if parents and caregivers are not included in the conversation.
The simple practice of turning your attention to the present moment – your breath, the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel – can actually physically change the structure of your brain and counteract the effects of stress and trauma in less than 8 weeks. Studies are now revealing that mindfulness-based therapy is more effective than anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy combined in treating PTSD. Even better, the results are permanent as long as participants continue to practice mindfulness in their daily lives
“Remember: Everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. Nine times out of ten, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart.” —Annette Breaux