So over the last few weeks I’ve been writing a bit, and thinking a lot about our primary role as educators in the world in which we live, and honestly, I believe that a profound shift needs to occur. If I boil it down to one core takeaway and approach for all of us moving forward, it would be this…schools need to start focusing their efforts and attention on social emotional learning, and on finding ways to make the development of these skills the focal point of a students daily educational experience. I’m only half joking when I say that we have it absolutely backward in schools…backward in that we spend all of our days prioritizing subjects and content and academic skill development with kids, with only a brief interlude in the day for a 30 minute advisory (pastoral care time) or a counselor corner time, with maybe a weekly assembly thrown in there for good measure…if the kids are lucky. Well, I think we should flip it around so that we start spending the majority of our days with kids teaching them about empathy, and leadership, and kindness, and compassion, and inclusion, and environmental stewardship and service learning and how to become outstanding human beings for our world…this should be what school is all about! Heaven knows the world needs it, maybe now more than ever.
Of course I’m not suggesting that we stop teaching math and literacy, and only give these subjects 30 minutes a day with a weekly added “academic” assembly, but I am suggesting that we find ways to teach these academic skills through an empathy based curriculum, or something like that, where everything that we teach kids is connected to these powerful and important social emotional skills. I’m concerned about our world these days, and I’m concerned about that fact that we seem to be taking two steps back in so many ways…so much conflict and divide and turmoil and hate, and the change that needs to happen in our world lies firmly on the leadership of our young people, and with the opportunity that we have as educators to empower them to become true change agents. Anyway, I’ve been extremely encouraged recently with the student led movement around gun control, not just in the United States, but all over the world, because students are finally saying that they’re fed up, and ultimately, they are done waiting for adults to fix our world…student voice is alive and well and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s time to start embracing leadership like this in schools, and finding ways to empower students in all aspects of their education. Time to start empowering kids to lead their own learning, and to think critically about issues, and to push back on the status quo, and to move beyond the traditional model of school that continues to hang on by it’s fangs all over the world.
Until I take the time to write an empathy based open source curriculum for schools (which I might just do by the way), that teaches ALL academic skills and learning through the concepts that I listed above, there are little things that we can start doing which will make a profound impact in our classrooms. All of us can begin the shift by seeing our primary role throughout the day not as teachers of math or literacy or biology or PE or French, but as teachers of kindness and love and compassion and integrity. Actively seek out times throughout the day to teach our kids about what it looks like to be an amazing human being…embrace those teachable moments when you can focus on empathy and what it looks like to be a leader. Find ways to give our kids agency and voice, and actively celebrate all the unique personalities that our kids bring to our communities. Like I’ve been saying in my two previous posts, stop teaching the subject and start teaching the child…each special, unique and beautiful child. We are teachers of children, not teachers of subjects or grade levels…we are mentors and advisors and surrogate mothers and fathers, and we are needed now more than ever to be this for our kids…and for our world.
Okay, there you have it…an impassioned plea to think about how we currently do “school”, and how we view our role as educators. If nothing else, think about some changes that you can make in your own approach to each school day, which might allow you to focus a little more on these social emotional skills. Little changes in kids will turn into big changes for our world and it can begin with us. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week –
You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself
– John Steinbeck
Powerful Videos – Take the Time to Watch…and Think
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