This is a season of celebrations. Whether it's Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or commemorations that are linked to the lunar calendar coming up now, such as Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, it's safe to say that most of the world's populations are taking time to remember some important events during this month.
If your family is like most families, you took a few moments on Thanksgiving to give thanks for your food, the company of those around the table, and for the good things that happened in the past year. Many of you did this even though it may have not been such a good year, and perhaps you lost people who had been around the table only a year ago, so full of life.
Most people acknowledge that their stress level goes up around the winter holidays. Crowded shopping malls, financial pressures, and additional responsibilities at home, work and in the community can all contribute. Educators can also experience another level of stress: addressing the December holidays at a public school.
The most important part of any social-emotional learning (SEL) or social-emotional character development curriculum (SECD) is skill development. But the formal lessons only serve to introduce the skills. Whether or not the skills are learned and generalized depends on the pedagogical procedure used.
I am an Oakland resident, an Oakland educator, and the mother of an Oakland public school student. I am committed to transforming our schools and world, and I work hard at maintaining hope and faith that this can be done.
Student stress, bullying and depression are some of the most critical issues facing our schools and communities today. In the past five years alone the rate of depression has doubled among youth aged seven to 17. Likewise, 77 percent of students report having been bullied mentally, verbally or physically in school. Most everybody knows someone who has had to deal with repercussions of this.
According to a recent study, U.S. governors talk predominantly about one role for education in our society -- an economic one. In analyzing "state of the state" speeches from 2001 to 2008, governors defined education in economic terms 62 percent of the time.
Bullying takes many forms, including intimidation in classrooms by peers, or at times, by teachers. Intentional or not, when students don't feel safe to participate in the classroom, their learning is severely impaired. Even the most stellar curriculum cannot get through when students are worried about negative reactions when they participate in class.
As elementary level teachers, we are charged not just with teaching academics, but teaching social skills as well. "Ignore bullies and tell an adult if you feel threatened," "Don't talk to strangers," "Treat people the way you want to be treated." You're probably familiar with phrases similar to these if you teach the younger grades. Young children are still learning the norms of social behavior and how to handle strangers.
Approximately 32 percent of students report being bullied at school. Bullied students are more likely to take a weapon to school, get involved in physical fights, and suffer from anxiety and depression, health problems, and mental health problems. They suffer academically (especially high-achieving black and Latino students). And research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score worse on standardized assessments than schools with a better climate.