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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Teaching Peace in Elementary School by Julie Scelfo

Copyright 2015 Nick Galifianakis
"FOR years, there has been a steady stream of headlines about the soaring mental health needs of college students and their struggles with anxiety and lack of resilience." according to Julie Scelfo, former staff writer for The New York Times who writes often about human behavior.

Now, a growing number of educators are trying to bolster emotional competency not on college campuses, but where they believe it will have the greatest impact: in elementary schools.

In many communities, elementary teachers, guidance counselors and administrators are embracing what is known as social and emotional learning, or S.E.L., a process through which people become more aware of their feelings and learn to relate more peacefully to others.

Photo: Sophie Lécuyer

Feeling left out? Angry at your mom? Embarrassed to speak out loud during class? Proponents of S.E.L. say these feelings aren’t insignificant issues to be ignored in favor of the three R’s. Unless emotions are properly dealt with, they believe, children won’t be able to reach their full academic potential.

“It’s not just about how you feel, but how are you going to solve a problem, whether it’s an academic problem or a peer problem or a relationship problem with a parent,” said Mark T. Greenberg, a professor of human development and psychology at Pennsylvania State University.

Echoing the concept of “emotional intelligence,” popularized in the 1990s by Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book of the same name, he added, “The ability to get along with others is really the glue of healthy human development.”...

“The neural pathways in the brain that deal with stress are the same ones that are used for learning,” said Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, a research and teaching center. “Schools are realizing that they have to help kids understand their feelings and manage them effectively.” He added, “We, as a country, want our kids to achieve more academically, but we can’t do this if our kids aren’t emotionally healthy.”...

In a recent study, researchers from Penn State and Duke looked at 753 adults who had been evaluated for social competency nearly 20 years earlier while in kindergarten: Scores for sharing, cooperating and helping other children nearly always predicted whether a person graduated from high school on time, earned a college degree, had full-time employment, lived in public housing, received public assistance or had been arrested or held in juvenile detention.
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Source: The New York Times

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