Friday, November 21, 2008

Social-emotional learning and the resistant child

The rest of the afternoon was spent in two keynote addresses. The structure of this conference is very strange as there are very few breakout sessions and a lot of really long keynote addresses.

The first one today was OK, though it did not particularly apply to my role in higher education. It was about the need for children to engage in social-emotional learning. Luckily, I'm a mom, so this info did apply to me that way. The speech was given by Mark Greenberg, a preventive scientist (he tries to figure out how we can keep kids from being bad rather than punishing them afterward). He talked about the ABCD model of development - Affective, Behavioral, Cognitive, Developmental. He said that social-emotional learning (SEL) has a significant impact on children's social-emotional skill, attitudes, social behavior, conduct, management of emotional distress, and academic achievement. SEL skills require self-reflective functions including communication, self-control, and planning and problem solving. What I really liked, as a parent, was his model for managing emotions. One analogy was a traffic light - red=stop, yellow=make a plan, green=go. I think I'll try that at my house for both myself and my kids.

The second keynote was by Robert Brooks. I've read some of his stuff and what he said today was largely a repeat. He talked about mindsets = the assumptions and expectations we have for ourselves and others that guide our behavior. He said that negative mindsets in adults reinforce negative mindsets in children. He also said that discipline is most effective in the context of a good relationship and that the most effective form of discipline is when the students (or children) are included in making the rules and consequences. He says that classrooms (or homes) with lists of rules a mile long do not help children feel safe, trusted, and empowered.

Then he talked about what we should do/believe to help children succeed:

1. believe that even challenging students can change - kids know when you've written them off; every child needs a "charismatic adult" in his/her life; today may be the day I say or do something to change a kid's life

2. believe that all children from birth want to learn and be successful - kids do well if they can; behind every challenging behavior is an unsolved problem or a lagging skill (or both)

3. believe that all students are motivated - sometimes by avoidance motivation to protect themselves from situations that they believe will lead to failure or humiliation; students believe that "try harder" is the most accusatory statement a teacher can make

4. believe that we must try to change what we do rather than wait for our students to change

5. strive to help students feel we genuinely care about them - students don't care what we know until they first know we care

6. recognize the importance of students feeling a sense of responsibility and ownership for their own education through choice, involvement, feedback, and discipline; how can I offer choices in ed psych? Hmm...

7. identify and reinforce "islands of competence" within perceived "oceans of inadequacy" - in other words, figure out students' strengths

8. Provide opportunities for students to engage in contributory activities - the roots of compassion and caring; everyone must feel like they make a difference 

9. believe that the fear of failure and humiliation must be removed from our classrooms - openly discuss it: who in this class thinks they will make a mistake this year? - raise your hand first; ask students what I can do so they don't develop fear in my class

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