Over the last decade, increased attention has been paid to the social and emotional learning (SEL) needs of children. This area of learning is necessary and essential to address -- for children and adults. It's time that schools take responsibility for meeting the entire range of learning needs that educators have -- the need to use new technologies, to understand and implement new standards, to use new assessment strategies, and their needs to attend to their own social and emotional learning.
Watching a classroom of students working is fascinating. There are students who are engaged, who focus on the task and forge ahead. They get the job done on time, every time. There are other students who start working but get distracted. They work briefly, but as soon as the work becomes difficult or challenging, they give up. They look for help, or they refuse to even try.
In the responses to several of my previous posts, many comments focused on the debate of whether children need rules, or whether children are better off with free choice and have the ability to make correct decisions when free to do so. Summerhill by A.S. Neill is offered as a shining example of that school of thought. In a 1999 New York Times article "Summerhill Revisited," Alan Riding posited why the results of Summerhill were not as glowing as A.S. Neill described in his landmark book.
The best way to reduce bullying is not with a one-time assembly or a poster campaign, but with homegrown, data-driven, sustained efforts by a caring, committed staff -- a model I call the six R's, a blueprint for effective bullying prevention. I've shared this model with hundreds of educators worldwide, and on U.S. Army bases. Each "R" is crucial in creating what our students deserve -- a safe, caring learning environment that breeds acceptance and respect.
For the last ten years, we've worked one-on-one with students from elementary school through graduate school. No matter their age, no matter the material, when you ask what they're struggling with, students almost universally name a subject: "math," "English" or, in some instances, "school." Doubting that all of school is the issue, we then ask to see their last test. After some grumbling, the student digs down, deep into the dark, dank recesses of his or her backpack, and pulls out a balled-up, lunch-stained paper that, once smoothed out, turns out to be the latest exam.
In the 1960s, there was an experiment with marshmallows. Children at the nursery school on Stanford’s campus were placed at a table and had the option of having one marshmallow now -- or getting two marshmallows if they waited 15 minutes while the researcher left the room. Children used many tactics to distract themselves while waiting, like kicking the floor, pulling their braids, and covering their eyes. Only about 30 percent of the children could hold out long enough to get the reward. But more importantly, it was found that those who could resist the marshmallows as preschoolers performed better in school later in life. Researchers found that self-regulation was a better predictor to success than IQ.
Children's books with multicultural settings and characters can transport us on a global adventure, dispelling negative stereotypes, teaching tolerance and respect, encouraging pride in kids' cultural heritage, and showcasing universal human emotions and feelings. When paired with extension activities, quality multicultural literature teaches kids about the world beyond our communities while sharpening their critical thinking skills.
With National Poetry Month just a few weeks away, you may have already started planning. Exposing our students to the powerful words and images of Maya Angelou's poetry builds their skills in reading, character education, vocabulary, civics, history, and humanity. Deeply exploring the topics and themes found in Angelou's poetry can be inspiring to students, and even life changing.
In its comprehensive case study report on socially inclusive schools, Special Olympics'
Project UNIFY identified the common factors across schools that had created a bridge from social inclusion programs to a genuinely positive school climate. The case study findings are here, and I'm also going to share with you key lessons learned that reflect my own work in fostering inclusive settings.
When collaboration goes wrong, it can be toxic for learning and classroom culture. We are all familiar with the scene: a group of students that is supposed to be completing a collaborative project has splintered off into dysfunctional factions. Maybe it's one student who has sullenly separated her- or himself from the rest of the group, or maybe the group has become two non-communicative teams with separate visions. Sometimes these conflicts lead to resentments that have the potential for long-term damage to the classroom community.