Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Sarah Button: Assessing Emotional Intelligence

February 22, 2001

Sarah Button, a teacher in the New York Public Schools, describes how social and emotional learning work has affected her students, their parents, and fellow teachers.

1. How do you know that the RCCP program makes a difference for your students?

You see it change in kids' attitudes and behavior over time with Resolving Conflict Creatively. You're not going to see it over the course of a month. You're not going to see it maybe even over the course of a school year. But you're going to see it over the course of maybe several years and when the kids come back and visit you, you have to have teachers who are always giving the same message and teaching them how to use it and integrate it into their lives. That's how you see the change. Nothing is a quick fix. If it's a quick fix, then it's not going to work. So you have to keep coming at them with the same message for anything to be effective.

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2. How do parents respond to the social and emotional learning work you are doing at P.S. 15?

In the past, I've had parents who have come up to me and actually said, "You know, if so-and-so puts a hand on my child, I give them permission to hit back. They're not to sit there and tell the teacher, they're to hit back." And what you really have to do is educate the parent and say, "Listen, I do understand that there's a way that you live outside of the classroom and on the street, but in my classroom that's not what we do. Putting our hands on another person is not allowed."

Once you educate the parent as to why it's not okay to put your hands on someone else just because they touch you, they start to come around. It is difficult. And you have to recognize with the kids that they're dealing with issues out on the street that we probably never had to deal with growing up. And you have to recognize that. But that's why Resolving Conflict Creatively is so important, because you're giving them the same message that you can make a difference and you can change the way things are out in the street.

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3. What are the benefits for teachers in implementing the RCCP?

Teacher burnout is a very big issue, especially if you're teaching in the inner city like we are. You know, New York City is the largest district in America. You have all walks of life. You have all ranges of socio-economic status, and you know, here we are in the projects of New York City in Red Hook, Brooklyn. You don't get much more than that. But kids come from abusive families. Teachers get burnt out. Even more so, what you do in Resolving Conflict Creatively because it's not just about solving problems but it's about learning who you are in the inside, respecting that, valuing that, and trying to make a better world for yourself.

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