In our last two installments, QWERTY guest blogger, Dr. Barbara Fatum, has discussed the “what” and “why” of Social Emotional Learning. Today she tells us how teachers and parents can help to promote development in this important area.
Now that we’ve discussed what Emotional Intelligence is, and why Social Emotional Learning is important, we can turn our attention to ways that a family or teacher can help children (and themselves) develop EQ skills.
Observe Your Classroom/Home Environment
Take a few moments and just observe your classroom or home environment. Which children appear relaxed and happy? Which children talk incessantly? Which children are shy and retiring? Get to know the patterns of behavior between your children and note how they are relating to each other.
The brain learns well through the context of stories. Stories stimulate multi-sensory integration and help the brain to order and orient the things it needs to know. If you think about your own school years, you will most likely realize that it is the stories that you remember (about teachers, classmates, friends etc.) that stimulate your memory and give depth to your learning. Creating classroom and family stories fosters interdependence and a sense of “we” that builds emotional intelligence.
Give Choice/Encourage Connection
Choice stimulates intrinsic motivation. It is through the opportunity to make choices and evaluate the consequences of those choices in a safe environment that we learn about ourselves. Classrooms and homes that allow children to make age-appropriate choices within boundaries that allow feelings of safety encourage self-efficacy and independence.
Emphasize Emotional Meaning/Model The Importance Of Emotions
Western culture sometimes does not acknowledge the importance of emotional understanding and meaning. The Behaviorist tradition of psychology has given individuals the idea that emotions are dangerous and to be avoided. Nothing could be further from the truth. Through understanding the message of our emotions we are empowered to act in ways that connect with our best judgment. In class and at home, adults must model this understanding of emotions by validating feelings and then helping to explore options in response to those feelings.
Create An Active And Cooperative Environment
Research suggests that competition builds stress and that stressed brains have a difficult time learning. Classrooms and homes that encourage a collaborative and cooperative approach to problem-solving allow children to approach learning in a calm and relaxed manner, opening the door to cognitive processing and memory.
An essential component of learning is to feel safe enough to make mistakes and be able to reframe them in a way that allows learning to occur. Homes and classrooms that allow children to learn to reframe mistakes lower stress and increase cognitive processing capability. Reframing also builds self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation as children can evaluate how to correctly use their skills, as well as decide which new skills need to be developed.
Celebration is such an important concept. Our brains are naturally structured to focus on negative elements. Positive occurrences are often treated in a matter-of-fact way as the brain is not inclined to focus on them for survival. Celebration of accomplishments allows children to build optimism in a realistic way and teaches them to focus on the things that they do well. It is important to teach our children to use their strengths to support their challenges. The child who can say, “I stink at soccer, but I am very good at art” is learning to balance his emotional response to challenges and to value him or herself.
Remember: Emotions affect how and what children learn. Unchecked emotions raise an individual’s stress level and stressed brains find it very difficult to learn.