The smell of permanent marker is in the air; books are piled neatly on each desk; brand new posters and charts hang peacefully on the walls; pencils are sharpened to needle-like perfection. And in the distance, new sneakers beat the pavement with anxiety and excitement about the first day of school.
From a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) point of view, the most important consideration at the start of the new school year is to create positive feelings and optimism about school. This has many practical implications for both educators and parents.
Editor's note: Anne O'Brien is our guest blogger today. She is a project director at the Learning First Alliance, a Teach for America alumna, and a former public school teacher in the greater New Orleans area.
Many times education reform debates are framed with an us versus them mentality. It doesn't matter what you are arguing for, there is always a clearly defined group working against you. The media also provides the reformers versus the establishment (never mind those members of the establishment who are doing innovative reform work all over the country).
Every day, the consequences of our children's poor eating habits and lack of exercise and fitness is displayed in our schools. They are held back in their academics and extracurricular activities because they lack energy, concentration, stamina, comfort, agility, and self-confidence.
The National Service-Learning Conference, which just wrapped up its 21st annual gathering in San Jose, California, attracted some 2,000 attendees. Participants came from every state and more than 30 countries, but the most telling statistic may be this: a third of attendees were youth.
"I look at [the tape], and I'm like, 'That is not me.' I have so much regret. I can't believe I did that. I let myself and my character not live up to what I should live up to and what I can live up to."