Over the years there’s been a gradual recognition that if schools want students to perform well on achievement tests they must also help them deal with their emotions. The two are linked and often children can’t pay attention to what they are learning because of the tumult of emotions going on inside them. That’s why social and emotional learning has gradually become an important part of many school curricula. In her New York Times article, Jennifer Kahn explains the research around social and emotional learning, as well as how it can practically be carried out.

One day last spring, James Wade sat cross-legged on the carpet and called his kindergarten class to order. Lanky and soft-spoken, Wade has a gentle charisma well suited to his role as a teacher of small children: steady, rather than exuberant.

Read more at: www.nytimes.com

  • Private American

    Seriously? We need to get back to the basics of reading, writing, and math. This is concerning because over the past twenty years we’ve allowed our schools to be hijacked by New Age methods which have done nothing for our children’s academic performance. Alternatively? It’s agreed that our kids are facing a lot of stress from issues like divorce, poverty, and more -which — is not the role of schools to handle – it’s the role of families, therapists, and others, who are experts in the field. So, let the teachers do “their” actual work — educate our children — and allow families to address the emotional issues of their children at home.

    • mooredcm

      Is it possible to separate emotional intelligence from academic intelligence? Where does one stop and the other begin? How does a child learn when they are struggling with bullying, lack of confidence, home issues,
      hunger, lack of support, etc?

    • Anonymous

      I agree that families should take care of their children’s emotional well-being, but what about the families who can’t or don’t? Should those children be penalized by not receiving the help they need?

    • Florida teacher

      I would agree with you three years ago before I started teaching in a Title 1 school. In the world if these children, the “family” may be seven people living in a one bedroom apartment. There is no stability in these homes, let alone a proactive parent who will engage the assistance of a therapist to help their child. In these situations, more and more responsibility is pushed onto the schools to ensure academic success. From feeding these children to ensuring their emotional stability. All are part of the learning success of the child. In this day of pay for performance, schools have taken on more and more responsibility outside of just letting “teachers do their actual work-educate children”. Teachers would love nothing more than doing just that. But when you are working in low income areas, and your pay is based upon the academic success of a child who is hungry, sleeps on the floor, and is emotionally immature, schools are forced to provide support services where families are lacking these resources. Is this the best answer? Probably not, but you can not educate a child whose basic needs are not met (Maslow), and if the child does not make gains, teachers are not compensated for their work.

  • Virginia Hill

    I think emotional literacy is a complicated topic. One of my friends dislikes the group, social emotional “Council” approach at her son’s school because she feels it’s invasive into her family. Nevertheless, I think it is provided a much needed subtlety to teacher training – it’s a start at least. I do think it’s hard for parents to find a simple ’emotional abc’s’ guide to help their kids, though. I certainly did not grow in in an emotionally literate family.


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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