5. Feelings Count - Emotions and Learning
Everyday our students walk into class experiencing all kinds of emotions They could be thrilling, like finally getting that solo right in band class, or traumatic, stemming from an upset on the soccer field or, more serious, a divorce at home
How do we create an emotionally safe classroom environment? And how can we teach our students the skills they need to manage their emotions - to become emotionally intelligent?
Hello, I'm Linda Darling-Hammond, and that's our challenge for this episode of The Learning Classroom.
When it comes to learning, feelings do count. And the ways our students experience and manage their emotions throughout their day has a profound effect on their ability and motivation to learn
Emotions and learning intersect in two major ways. Emotions influence how people learn For example, a confident child who is secure in the classroom may be able to listen well, learn, and take risks. Meanwhile, an anxious or fearful child may be unable to pay attention and process that same information. When we create a safe environment for students, we allow them to grow, explore, take chances, and learn from their mistakes; all of these things are essential for learning.
Students also need to learn to manage their emotions in order to succeed in school and in life. We must teach them how to recognize, and articulate their feelings, set reasonable goals and persevere, empathize with others, and solve social conflicts in constructive ways.
This ability to recognize and manage one's emotions and relationships is known as emotional intelligence.
Daniel B. Goleman, Ph.D., Author, Emotional Intelligence: In order to help a child get into the state where they're ready to learn, a teacher has to realize that, the emotional reality in the classroom matters, and that the teacher is a mentor. That the teacher is in the key position to help children get for themselves the critical abilities of emotional intelligence First, being AWARE of what they're feeling. If you're not aware of what you're feeling you won't be able to handle that emotion. It's already controlling you. So awareness, and then MANAGING emotion. Finding ways, learning ways to calm yourself, to sooth emotions, to pause before you act. Also EMPATHY, realizing what other kids are feeling, that is the key of getting along, to creating a harmonious classroom. Then SOCIAL PROBLEM SOLVING, working out problems in relationships. And if you do then that child will be better able to learn the content, because their emotions will be more under control, not controlling them.Linda Darling-Hammond: Once a child is in control of his emotions he is also better able to MOTIVATE himself to try again after a failure and persevere in spite of difficulties.
So how do we develop emotional intelligence in our students and provide classroom environments where students feel free to learn and grow?
First, as classroom teachers we can teach our students the specific skills they need to manage their fears and frustrations and create harmonious relationships with others. In addition, we can develop a nurturing learning environment that is free from fear and ridicule, where students are able to take chances. Emotions can then become a pathway to learning.
Fourth and fifth grade teacher Kristin Bijur begins each day by providing her students with a positive opportunity to express themselves and connect to one another Then throughout the day, she keeps her finger on the pulse of student feelings and interactions
Kristin employs a number of strategies to help her students recognize what they feel She takes time to help them find words to express their thoughts and to communicate with their peers in resolving conflicts.
Kristin Bijur: I go back and forth throughout the day between whole, whole class activities, group activities, and independent activities, to provide texture in the day.
So that they don't sit there all day long and listen or don't sit there all day long and just talk to the person next to them, so that there's texture to the interactions in the day.
Kristin Bijur: But given that, you know, given that there's this variety of configurations for interaction, various, um, friction happens throughout the day either between myself and a student during a whole class lesson, or between two students during a whole, during a small group activity or individuals during, during one of those kinds of activities So, there's things come up all day long.
James P. Comer: You have to be aware that children are not born knowing how to manage themselves in the world, and not think of what they do that you find unacceptable as bad, or indications that they're not very smart We have to understand that you, the adult, are there to help them learn all the things they need to learn, how to handle themselves, how to have a conversation, how to manage disagreement, all of the things that are required to be successful in school You should help them and not simply see their behavior as bad when they're not able to do things.
And then I, they also need to know that I'm gonna help take care of their, gonna help them with their problems I don't, I don't have total confidence yet that, or I don't total confidence that, that fourth and fifth graders are yet able to take care of, handle all of their conflicts by themselves So they need to know that, they need to have trust that I'm going to help them solve conflicts when they come to me with that kind of request So, and you know, sometimes I'll go through the full conflict resolution process I did that yesterday with two students 'cause it seemed like a complicated enough kind of conflict that I wanted to go through the whole process.
Kristin Bijur: I find that it's always easier in, in coaching a child to take responsibility for his or her actions to say, "What, do you feel like? What do you feel like went wrong in the situations?" I think that tends to be more effective in the child learning to take responsibility for him or herself.
Kristin Bijur: I remember when I was a new teacher I was really concerned about making sure that - I taught fifth grade - making sure that my fifth graders got the content that they were supposed to get in fifth grade. That I didn't focus very much time and attention on their emotions, and taking care of problems when they came up, and solving conflicts between kids That resulted in their not really trusting me, and them not always feeling safe to be able to learn and attend to the learning So I think something that's really important, even though it feels like it's not addressing the standards, or it's not what you're supposed to be teaching in a fifth grade classroom, I think in any classroom it's really important to be attending the emotions of the children and giving that time and weight by creating structures to, to address those
Daniel Goleman: A child who learns best is one who is paying attention, who is alert, who is feeling upbeat, optimistic But then think about the reality of everyday life in a school, for a young child Somebody pokes you with a pencil, or you're playing soccer and someone kicks your ball away, these things get you upset, these are the real life melodramas of a child's life They're very preoccupying So when a teacher in a classroom helps children learn how to calm down, how to create a harmonious environment, how to settle disputes that are preoccupying them, in other words, by getting them in a more positive emotional state, they are directly enhancing that child's ability to learn.
Linda Darling-Hammond: Teaching our students to be emotionally intelligent enhances their ability to focus, to process information and relate to others in positive ways - key life skills that will serve them well Fortunately, opportunities for teaching emotional intelligence occur every day in the classroom.
We've just seen an elementary teacher effectively model how to identify, express, and constructively communicate thoughts and feelings.
Kristin Bijur also helps her students become aware of how their actions make their classmates feel. She coaches them in the use of problem solving strategies, and then she motivates them to keep up the good work by offering plenty of praise for their efforts She is teaching them to deal with their emotions intelligently.
As students mature they generally become better able to solve their own problems, however they continue to require our support and guidance.
Eighth grade band teacher Nancy Flanagan knows more than most people about creating harmony, and we're not just talking about music. Nancy starts each year by getting to know her students deeply, thus creating a foundation for emotional and academic growth Let's see how she helps her students take risks, pursue new challenges, and practice the skills they need to succeed both as individuals and as a team.
Nancy Flanagan: We begin creating the classroom environment In September. It's day one It takes a long time, and every year I forget how difficult it is Every year I come in ready to work, and I forget I have to stop, I have to lay back, and I have to know these kids individually and personally, and I have to figure out how they work together And I have to teach them how to work together before we can really start heavy-duty content and heavy-duty learning It's a challenge How do you do that? It starts with knowing your students deeply and authentically, knowing who they are
Nancy Flanagan: Letting your guard down, laughing with the kids when that starts to happen, the genuine interactions, you can feel it, it's an energy in the classroom, when the kids are laughing together, and they can work together.
Nancy Flanagan: They're anxious about everything. It's a particularly traumatic time of life They're anxious about their braces, and can they play with their braces, and they're anxious about deep and serious things, and every now and then they're actually anxious about the world at large.
They're very much self-centered creatures, but that's okay, that's where they need to be right now They need to be developing their own, their own coping skills.
The piece we were working on today, "The Enshowkan
Farewell" was used by Ken Burns, in his series on the Civil War,
as background music for a letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife And
what we want to do with this is have students read the letter from Sullivan
Ballou, and fit that in the context of this lovely little Apalachian
this terrible, terrible story that really happened
Nancy Flanagan: I love stories, and I have a great collection of stories The trick is not to make the point. You don't have to tell them what the moral of the story is
Linda Darling-Hammond: A safe nurturing environment like this one helps students recognize and deal with their feelings, and also creates emotional support By establishing routines, Nancy Flanagan provides a comfortable space where children know what they can count on She also creates a place where children can grow in their competence.
Nancy Flanagan: There is something to be said for structure. There's even something to be said for rules. If we know the rules, if we have 60 kids and they have noise makers, and they're coming in, there are going to be some rules, there's going to be some structure, some systems that are in place that they can feel comfortable with They know what is going to happen.
Nancy Flanagan: Every day it's important. It goes back to knowing your kids It goes back to that personal information that you have about them, that personal feeling you have for them I think that empathy for within the classroom begins with empathy for the teacher to the student And maybe it's not something as obvious as modeling empathy, but it starts with concrete, real genuine feelings for kids.
Nancy Flanagan: There are no short cuts to making kids feel comfortable, and it has to be real I don't think you can fake caring I think kids have great noses for fake teachers.
Nancy Flanagan: They're looking for the real person Some kids, kids who come from safe and comfortable home environments, you're just one more in a string of nice teachers they've had With some kids you're potentially the enemy So you have to be patient, and you have to be real.
Linda Darling-Hammond: These teachers teach very different subjects to very different age groups, but they have both succeeded in creating an emotionally safe and respectful classroom environment And in the process, their students have developed a genuine attachment for their teacher This is important because it motivates children to work hard quite often children learn as much for a teacher as they learn from a teacher.
Comer: What teachers should know is they themselves are instruments of learning It is not the child alone It is the child's emotional attachment to them that encourages the child to want to learn.
Goleman: One reason an emotionally safe environment is so crucial in a school is that learning is risky What you do as a teacher is push children to challenge themselves To try the next level of difficulty in multiplication, to do the next level of difficulty in reading. In other words, children are increasingly being asked to raise the bar on their own performance.
Comer: What is so very important, and we take for granted, that children come to school having already managed to handle all of the impulses that they have and to have the comfort and the confidence that they can sit and take in the information that we're trying to provide
Many children have not received that, and so the teacher has to help, has to help create an environment in which children can have psycho-emotional comfort to be able to engage in the social and intellectual activities that are going on in the classroom And so it is more than anything else, it is an awareness of what children need to function in various areas intellectually and socially, and the kind of psycho-emotional conditions, and social conditions you need to make that possible.
Daniel Goleman: Emotional intelligence is crucial in education for a few reasons. One is that the emotional reality of a child determines whether or not he or she can learn A child who is emotionally preoccupied, emotionally upset, is not able to pay attention The other is that emotional intelligence, that is the ability to manage ourselves, handle our own lives, and to handle our relationships, is crucial for life These are essential life skills.
Linda Darling-Hammond: The students we saw are becoming more aware of their emotions, more capable of managing them, and more able to motivate themselves to work through problems, rather than lashing out or giving up. As they learn to empathize with others, they are developing social competence, combining all of these skills to function effectively as part of a team and as a member of society.
When we acknowledge students' emotions, we lay a great foundation for their social, emotional, and academic growth.
This is The Learning Classroom, thanks for watching.Return to the Support Materials for Session 5