Skip to main content
Close

Welcome to the new Annenberg Learner website! All of the current series have migrated to our new, streamlined interface. The legacy site is available at archive.learner.org through February 29, 2020.

Close
Menu

The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice

Feelings Count: Emotions and Learning

This program introduces ways to create an emotionally safe classroom to foster learning and to deal effectively with emotions and conflicts that can be obstacles. Featured are a fifth-grade teacher and an eighth-grade band teacher, with expert commentary from Daniel B. Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, and Yale University Professor James P. Comer.

View Transcript

Linda Darling-Hammond:
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.

 

(classroom scene)
Kristin: Let’s do a very quick greeting going around.

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Kristin: Can somebody remember and tell me what happened yesterday? Can you tell me?
Student: Nope.
Kristin:  I think it might be most comfortable for you to tell me.
Student:
 I screamed out the answer.
Kristin: And how did that affect your classmates?
Student:
 They felt bad.
Kristin: They felt bad about that.
Student: And mad.
Kristin: And mad. You guys came away from your math period not feeling so good about each other Remember? So does anybody have any ideas about how we could start the day off today so that we don’t get into a problem where we feel bad about ourselves at the end of the day, at the end of the math period? Did you say something? What ideas to you have, Devon?
Devon:
 Well, I think we should work together and not, try not to say the answer to people, or if they don’t have it, you should help them instead of telling them.
Kristin: So, can you all come to an agreement that nobody is going to say the answer out until we’ve all finished the problem?
Student: Yes.
Kristin: How will you know that you all finished the problem? Molly? How would you know that everyone finished the problem?
Student:
 You ask, like when you’re done you say, “Ok, is everybody done?”
Kristin:
 So does everybody agree with Molly’s proposal that when you’re done with a problem you’re going to say to the other children, “Are you done?” And what if they say, “No”?  Ella, What’s going to happen then?
Student:
 You might help them.
Teacher:  I’m going to meet with you guys at the end of math today, and we’re going to talk about how it went today, different from how it went yesterday, to see if we’ve made any improvement’s about how it went today.

 

Kristin Bijur: In dealing with student to student conflict, the thing that I have to do before I can take any action with solving the conflict is listen to them ’cause they need, they need to know that I, I think that what they’re feeling is important and valid and that they feel…I, I, I know that they probably are not gonna be able to learn if they’re feeling like somebody’s made fun of them or somebody has disrespected them in some way and they’re, they’re feel, they’re hurting about that.

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Kristin: Are we agreed on the ground rules? That we don’t interrupt each other, we don’t call out, we don’t say unkind things? Are you ready to tell your story?
Girl: I know I took his paper and I know I’m sorry about that, but he didn’t have to poke me when I was putting his paper back. And as soon as I put it back he poked me in the back with a lead tip pencil.
Kristin: 
Ok. So, let me get this straight. You took his paper.
Girl: Yes.
Kristin: And he told you to give it back?
Girl: Yes.
Kristin: 
And you were giving it back?
Girl: Yes.
Kristin: And as you were giving it back he poked you in the shoulder with a pencil.
Girl: Yes.
Kristin: Is there anything else you want to tell me about?
Girl: No.
Kristin: OK.
Boy: What happened was she took my paper and I tried to grab it from her but she kept moving it away from my hand and finally, like after several times, I was asking for my paper back, she was holding it over here near my desk. She wasn’t putting it back, so that’s when I poked her, because I knew I wouldn’t get my paper back any other way.
Girl:  Because…
Kristin:  I’m sorry, honey Remember we’re not interrupting OK Is there anything else you’d like to say? To add on to your story?
Boy:
 No.
Kristin: Okay, so these are a little bit different. So he says you were kind of putting the paper near his hand and then pulling it away You had the paper over there and not putting it down.
Boy:
 I was about to grab it, and she’d pull it away.
Kristin: OK. Do you agree?
Girl: Yes.
Kristin: So we have the same story?
Girl: Yes. I apologize. I won’t do it again.
Kristin: 
And what do you need to know?
Girl: That he won’t poke anybody in the back.
Boy: 
I won’t poke you in the back.
Kristin: Thank you for doing this conflict resolution.

 

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.

 

(playground scene)
Kristin: I hear there’s been a little bit of a problem with the girls for that spot over there, for where you used to play soccer. What have you done to take care of that problem?  What have you done to address that problem? I’d love to see some hands. Sean, what have you done?
Boy:
 Well, we moved over there to have the goal on that gray spot and move right over there. But then they sometimes come in and kick the ball way over there That’s what they do. And then they go like, “Yay!”
Kristin:
 So the first thing that I heard you guys say is that you kind of moved your whole field to let them play where they are right now. Right? That sounds like an act of true, ah virtue to me, that you guys did that.
Boy:
 They’re just making it harder, though We’re giving them something, but they’re like…
Kristin:
 They’re not giving back?
Boy #2:
 Yeah. We sometimes play side to side right here, but when we get all the way over there, some of those people just kick it back over here and then we don’t know what to do then.
Kristin:
 Gosh, you know, I have to say, even before we continue the rest of this conversation, I’m feeling so proud of this group of soccer players because it sounds like you’re not getting upset with other people in inappropriate ways for getting in your space You’re trying to make room for other people, and it sounds like you’re trying to solve this problem in a way that would be peaceful and harmonious, is that true?  I’m really impressed about that.

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy Flanagan:  Imagination is more important than knowledge… yeah, don’t let that get around Here we go!  And one, at the signs, signs to  please, one, and two, one, two ready and…

 

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

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy:  I want someone who can read with some emotions Right, where the trumpets come in Trumpets, how are you going to come in?  Like the Backstreet Boys?<Laughter>  I think not.
Nancy:
 No, seriously, come in, what’s the word?
Student:
 Ah, on time?
<More laughter>

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy: You know, I don’t know a doggone thing about how to play a rainstick the correct way So I think we’re just going to have to work this out We’re just gonna do a little <gestures> Let’s do it again Here we go…
Nancy:
 There you go Ashley, you were born to play rain stick.
(Laughter)

 

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 folk tune… this terrible, terrible story that really happened.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy:  “Dear Sarah,” he wrote to his wife “The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps tomorrow Unless I shall not be able to write you again, I feel compelled to write a few lines that may fall upon your eyes…”

 

Nancy Flanagan: If you want kids to really think deeply about their emotions, and their action, I don’t think there is any better vehicle than a story.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy:  If we read this letter, if we decide that we want to stage this like this, we have a, what’s the word, we have almost a responsibility to do this really, really well The music has to be so good that the emotions, we can bring out emotions in people You can do a really powerful thing by staging this So that’s why I want it to be so good And why I’ve been so hard on you…

 

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

 

(classroom scene)
Girl:  How old was he?
Nancy: 
 You know, it doesn’t say How old do you think he was?
Student: 
 He has to be a little bit older because he has a wife.
Nancy: 
 Eric?  That’s the part that I didn’t say. It says that Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first battle of Bull Run So yeah, he did die.

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Boy:
  Can I lead warm ups today?
Nancy: 
 Um, yeah, you want to?  Yeah.
Boy:
  Thank you.
Nancy:
  Um, do you know what to do?  Um, do you want to do some scales?
Boy: 
 Um, either scales or “Bridgewater.
Nancy: 
 “Bridgewater”, let’s do “Bridgewater.” On those pleasant thoughts Let’s play… And… We’re ready? Take her away, Mr. Matt.
Boy:
  A five-scale warm-up.
Nancy: 
 You the boss.
<Music>

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy: 
You know what? You almost have that solo. Do you wanna, you want to take that CD home?
Student: OK, Sure!
Nancy: It’s in the CD player or it might be on the CD player Want me to get that for you? Yeah, take it home. Kay, I think it will really help you to listen to it, so…

 

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.

 

(classroom scene)
Nancy:  Hey Travis? Good job today! You’re welcome.

 

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.

“How students feel affects whether and how they can learn. If they’re anxious or fearful they’re not going to be able to take in information. Teachers not only can learn to create a safe environment they can learn to develop emotional intelligence. The students actually gain the skills of managing their emotions, solving conflicts, and interacting with others. And all of that can be taught and learned.” 
Linda Darling-Hammond

Key Questions:

  • How do emotions affect learning, and how does the classroom affect emotions?
  • How can teachers foster emotional intelligence and create emotionally safe classroom environments?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Emotions affect learning – Teachers will understand how their students’ emotions affect learning. Teachers will understand the need to make judgments about when emotions are interfering with or supporting learning.
  2. Emotional intelligence – Teachers will consider and understand the five aspects of “emotional intelligence.” They will begin to develop strategies to help themselves and their students become aware of and manage their emotions.
  3. Creating emotionally safe learning environments – Teachers will consider how to create emotionally safe learning environments where students can take risks, develop confidence, and grow emotionally and academically.

Video Program

This episode introduces viewers to ways in which teachers can create an emotionally safe classroom to foster learning, and ways in which they can deal with emotions and conflicts that can be an obstacle to learning. Fifth grade teacher Kristin Bijur at San Francisco Community School, San Francisco, California, is featured, as well as eighth grade band teacher, Nancy Flanagan at Hartland Middle School, Hartland, Michigan. Daniel B. Goleman, Ph.D., author of the book Emotional Intelligence, and Yale University Professor James P. Comer offer expert commentary on the subject.

Session Content Outline

Key Questions

  • How do emotions affect learning and how does the classroom affect emotions?
  • How can teachers foster emotional intelligence and create emotionally safe classroom environments?

Learning Objectives

  • Emotions affect learning – Teachers will understand how their students’ emotions affect learning. Teachers will understand the need to make judgments about when emotions are interfering with or supporting learning.
  • Emotional intelligence – Teachers will consider and understand the five aspects of “emotional intelligence.” They will begin to develop strategies to help themselves and their students become aware of and manage their emotions.
  • Creating emotionally safe learning environments – Teachers will consider how to create emotionally safe learning environments where students can take risks, develop confidence, and grow emotionally and academically.

Session Outline

Emotions are important in the classroom in two major ways:

  1. Emotions have an impact on learning. They influence our ability to process information and to accurately understand what we encounter. For these reasons, it is important for teachers to create a positive, emotionally safe classroom environment to provide for optimal student learning.
  2. Learning how to manage feelings and relationships constitutes a kind of “emotional intelligence” that enables people to be successful.

Emotions Affect Learning

  • Emotions are complex states of mind and body, consisting of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive reactions to situations, and they can be managed and directed.
  • It is critical to recognize the important link between emotions, thought, and action.
  • Our emotional state has the potential to influence our thinking.
  • Emotions can interfere with students’ learning in several ways, including:
    • limiting the capacity to balance emotional issues with schoolwork
    • creating anxiety specifically about schoolwork
    • triggering emotional responses to classroom events

Developing Skills for Emotional Intelligence

  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage feelings and relationships.
  • Daniel Goleman outlines five skills involved in emotional intelligence:<
    1. being aware of one’s emotions
    2. managing those emotions
    3. motivating oneself
    4. empathizing
    5. relating well with others in a group

Handling Social Relationships

  • Being aware of emotions, managing emotions, self-motivation, and having empathy for others are important as we engage in social relationships. Positive social relationships in school – working well with others and developing meaningful personal relationships—are often associated with positive academic achievement.
  • James Comer notes that teachers sometimes take for granted that children come to school able to manage their impulses. This is not the case for many children. Teachers often need to teach students how they are expected to behave, rather than assuming they are “bad” when they behave in ways that do not meet the teacher’s expectations.
  • Teachers also need to understand how their own emotional intelligence influences the classroom. A teacher’s positive state of mind and ability to manage her emotions and relationships productively are a model for her students. Teachers demonstrate how to express emotion and manage relationships when they communicate their feelings to students and show how to build respectful relationships with others.

Creating an Emotionally Safe Classroom Environment

  • An emotionally safe classroom environment is necessary for students’ cognitive learning, growth, and creative expression.
  • Teachers can create emotionally safe classrooms by –
    • affirming students’ accomplishments in noncompetitive ways
    • encouraging self-confidence
    • providing opportunities to take risks without penalty
    • giving thoughtful feedback
  • Teachers can foster positive relationships with their students by conveying respect and compassion for students by –
    • conveying respect and compassion for students
    • listening carefully to them
    • responding to their needs and feelings
  • Teachers can create an emotionally safe classroom environment by providing targeted, positive feedback on successful elements of work in conjunction with suggestions for improvement.
  • Emotionally safe learning environments can be developed with purposeful action.

Key Terms - New In This Section

  1. Emotional Intelligence – the ability to manage feelings and relationships.
  2. Emotionally Safe Classroom -a classroom in which students feel they can take intellectual risks without harsh penalties for failure, because their teacher has structured the learning environment to be supportive.
  3. Self Awareness -the ability to recognize one’s own thoughts and feelings, and to understand why they are thinking or feeling a certain way.

Questions for Reflection Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1. The video segments in The Learning Classroom were taped as teachers worked in their own classrooms. As you watch, jot down the questions you have about what you see the teacher do and how the students respond.

Step 2. When you’re done, click on the episode title from the list and compare your questions with the Questions for Reflection and responses that our project team has anticipated.

Step 3. Review the responses we have prepared to questions that match the ones you have asked. The expert responses are not “final answers,” they are provided to give you a starting point for your own reflection. What else might you add to the response you read?

Questions for Reflection

Question 1: Are the students in the middle school band class really taking risks when they play a rainstick or conduct?

Response 1: Yes. They are accepting an opportunity to try something new in front of their peers. From the point of view of many middle school students, the risk of ridicule alone is very high. The teacher, however, has created an emotionally safe environment in which that risk is so small that it seems there is really no risk at all in trying to conduct or play the rainstick while the rest of the band watches.

Question 2: The elementary school teacher, Ms. Bijur says she emphasizes her role preparing students for learning, but we see only that. Does she ever actually teach content, or just spend her time resolving conflicts?

Response 2: The video showed material that demonstrated the teacher’s practices in dealing with issues of emotion, because that is the topic of the program. Most of the time Ms. Bijur is working with her students on academic skills. For instance, she can easily take a few moments to resolve an issue in one math group, because other math groups in the class are working satisfactorily on their own.

Question 3: The racially mixed classroom seems to be preoccupied with conflicts that have to be resolved, while the essentially all-white music class seems to have no conflicts. Are we subtly saying that people of color are more likely to be involved in conflicts?

Response 3: No, but we may be seeing a subtle developmental difference in the way emotion and learning are related. The younger students in Ms. Bijur’s class are not as emotionally mature as the older middle schoolers, and are thus more likely to let interpersonal conflicts manifest themselves in ways that require the teacher to intervene. In the band segment the focus of the segment was to explore how Ms. Flanagan builds an emotionally safe environment where typically highly self-conscious middle school students can feel comfortable, even though every mistake they make may be heard by the rest of the class.

Question 4: Some teachers think their job is to teach and the students’ job is to learn, and there is no mention of developing relationships. The teachers in the video seemed to have strong relationships with their students. Why are relationships so important in developing emotional intelligence?

Response 4: Whether we want to accept it or not, students become emotionally attached to teachers, looking for guidance and structure. When relationships are developed positively, trust occurs between students and teachers – modeling trust between students and students. As trust grows, the classroom becomes emotionally safer and students have fewer obstacles to grow their confidence and therefore their learning.

Question 5: I’m not a mind reader! How am I supposed to know when students are experiencing emotions that are impeding their learning?

Response 5: Students experience emotions every day. When you create an emotionally safe classroom students will feel free to tell you when they are experiencing a problem, and you will not have to be a mind detective. As you watch students who are having difficulty with a learning task, add “emotions” to your list of issues that may be blocking the student’s progress, and address the issue when you identify it.

We all feel at one time or another that we are being asked to do too much, and dealing with emotions may seem like too much. However, if you consider your ultimate goal – to have students learn, sometimes immediately dealing with a potential conflict will pave the way for learning.
Question 6: We all want to work in an emotionally safe environment, so how is the classroom any different from the entire school? Don’t we want the whole building to be emotionally safe?

Response 6: Making the hallways of the entire school as safe as your classroom is a logical next step, but it may be a difficult one. In your classroom you can take the opportunity to work every day building a trusting relationship, and over time you will succeed.

Growing an emotionally safe environment throughout the school requires all school staff to embrace the goal, and then to work toward it. How teachers interact with each other is powerful modeling for students. When students see teachers collaborating and trusting each other, it sets the stage for their own interactions.

Question 7: Teaching students how to manage their emotions seems to be a continuous process that may become the primary objective instead of the content I am supposed to be teaching. How do I keep required learning content at the forefront of my instructional day?

Response 7: It may help to think of creating an emotionally safe environment as a preparation for learning. It’s difficult to teach when the room is physically too cold or too hot, and the same might be said about the emotional “temperature” of the class. It may be best to address it before you begin, so it does not become a recurring obstacle.

Like everything else, it takes time for students to learn how to manage their emotions and for teachers to understand how their emotions impact student learning, but once accomplished, every day’s curriculum objectives can be at the forefront.

Following up periodically and re-teaching emotional management skills is also good practice, like using checkpoints to ensure curriculum concepts are understood, valued and applied.
Question 8: With 30 children in attendance couldn’t my entire day be spent on solving emotional dilemmas preventing any significant amount of learning from taking place?

Response 8: As teachers we learn how to make judgments about when emotions are interfering with or supporting learning. The teachers in these segments demonstrate how a structured environment can provide students with the support they need to move through emotional conflicts and still remain focused on learning. Although it is true that all students carry a certain amount of baggage when they enter the classroom, these segments demonstrate how students and teachers can determine what conflicts need to be addressed before learning can take place.

Question 9: I understand that my student’s emotions can block learning but wouldn’t school psychologists and/or school counselors handle developing emotional intelligence better?

Question 9: I understand that my student’s emotions can block learning but wouldn’t school psychologists and/or school counselors handle developing emotional intelligence better?

Question 10: I like the idea of creating an environment where my students can take risks, however, most students are so cautious about saying or doing anything that may appear stupid. How do you create a classroom where students feel free to take risks that often turn out to be failures?

Response 10: By taking risks, students gain confidence and the more confidence they have the more they will grow socially and academically. You can encourage students to take risks while teaching them that each risk they take, whether successful or not, can prepare them for a future success. The key is helping them learn from failures. If an effort fails and it’s simply accepted as failure, nothing is gained. If an effort fails and you use the opportunity to help the student analyze what went wrong and try again, that’s a success. It also shows others in the class that it is safe, and even valuable to take the same kind of risks.

Question 11: While watching the video, I saw how emotions impact learning but it is not clear to me how learning impacts emotions.

Question 11: While watching the video, I saw how emotions impact learning but it is not clear to me how learning impacts emotions.

Question 12: I watched with interest the segment where Kristin resolved a conflict between two students using conflict resolution. While the teacher was listening to the two students involved what was going on with the rest of the class?

Response 12: We often think that all students must be engaged simultaneously. While the teacher was helping a few students resolve their differences the remainder of the class was involved in group or independent work. We know that social interaction is an important aspect of student learning so setting up small work groups is beneficial. The more they do it, the better they become at it, giving the teacher time to check in on each group to address whatever issue might come up. Resolving conflicts within a group is only one of them, but an important one. It appears that most of Kristin’s class was well-practiced in working within small groups, so when a conflict arose in one she could handle it with no apparent disruption for the rest of the class. This is a good example of how time spent managing student emotions can have long-term educational benefits.

Question 13: The teachers created an emotionally safe environment conducive to learning but I only saw the results, not examples of how and when they did it.

Response 13: One of the most important components of an emotionally safe environment is showing interest in how students are feeling and what they are feeling is valid and important. The teachers were demonstrating that very clearly in the video segments.

They also framed some risk-taking as a group experience – Nancy Flanagan’s comment to the girl about to play the rain stick is a good example. She said she knew nothing about playing a rain stick, so they would all be learning from what the girl did.

Doing such things over time helps create a trusting atmosphere where students know they can count on teachers to resolve conflict fairly without judgment, or to support them when they take intellectual risks.

It does take time to build structures in the classroom that support emotionally safe environments. It starts whenever you receive a new group of students and requires talking with them, building relationships with them, and nurturing the learning relationships among students.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THE SESSION

Linda Darling-Hammond
Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education, Stanford University

Daniel Goleman
author, Emotional Intelligence

Dr. James P. Comer
Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale University

Kristin Bijur
fourth & fifth grade teacher, San Francisco Community School, California

Nancy Flanagan
eighth grade teacher, Highland Middle School at Ore Creek, Hartland, Michigan

Transcript of Comments By Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and other books

Excerpts from an interview with Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and other books.

Taped on or about May 1, 2001

Discussion of “Feelings Count: Emotion and Learning”

Let’s think about the relationship between emotion and learning. 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 poked you with a pencil, or you’re playing soccer and somebody kicks your ball away, these things get you upset, these are the real life melodramas of a child’s life. They’re very preoccupying. Emotions are extremely powerful in the brain, when you are in an emotional state it takes over your capacity to pay attention. And that means you have less attention left to pay attention to what the teacher is telling you. In other words, to learn. So by managing a child’s emotions, or helping that child calm themselves down, or settle the dispute, and get back into a state that they can learn, you’re actually enhancing that child’s ability to learn.

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 soothe 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. Those are the four key skills that every single teacher can help a child learn. 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.

When a teacher is handling emotional flareup among kids, It looks like that it is just classroom management. You know she is just trying to keep the kids orderly and so on. It’s more than that. It’s an education in emotional intelligences, and how to be intelligent about your emotions. In other words, children are learning every time they go through an exercise of how to work out a conflict on the playground. They’re learning something very real and very important that will hold them in good steed for the rest of their lives. That is, how you handle interpersonal conflict, how you get along better, how to be harmonious. Interestingly, if you look at what employers want in kids straight out of school, in their first job? The basics of education are about seventh on the list. The first five or six things they want are the ability to collaborate, and harmonize, the ability to have confidence, integrity and responsibility, in other words, elements of emotional intelligences, which are the kind of skills that a teacher is inculcating when she pays attention to the social and emotional learning, to the kinds of things that look so innocuous. You know, working out a playground hassle. But really, there are some really important crucial lessons for life that children are picking up.

There is, in earnest, a paradox in our educational system. And that is that we focus on grades and test scores, as though that would be the ultimate predictor of how well a child will do in their career. The truth is that what those abilities determine is what career or role, or profession, or job a child can enter, what job they can hold down. Because they stand for the level of cognitive complexity that, that child can handle. Some jobs like medicine require a very high degree of those abilities. The paradox is that once people are in the pool of people within their field, those abilities drop away as predictors of success. They don’t matter so much anymore, because everyone in the field has crossed the same threshold of ability. There is a very narrow range of variation within the field in IQ. What does matter is emotional intelligence. Something that we don’t systematically teach our children, but I firmly believe we should. In other words if you look at studies within a profession, if you look at studies of top executives, you look at studies of engineers, you look at studies of lawyers or physicians. And you see what distinguishes the stars from the average it’s no longer IQ. It’s no longer the things they learned in school. For example, what determines who’s a leader in a field has to do with how well they handle themselves and how well they handle relationships. Can you articulate a vision from deep in yourself that will inspire and move and motivate other people? These are abilities that have to do with something that we don’t bother teaching. But ironically, this is what is going to determine whether you’re actually a success within your field.

[looking at the segment in “Feelings Count” that features Kristin Bijur]
Take for example Kristin in San Francisco. She is doing a superb job of this kind of social-emotional education. She’s taking the time to teach the kids the right lesson. She is showing them how to manage their own emotions, she is showing them how to empathize, and understand what others are feeling. She’s showing them how to work out disagreements. These are the abilities that these children will need for the rest of their lives. And in the standard way of doing education – focusing only on “are you going to be ready for the achievement test” – we ignore this, but in a many ways, this is the most crucial part of a child’s education.

One reason an emotionally safe environment is so important 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. And we know from 50 years of research in psychology that being anxious makes people risk adverse. That is, when you’re anxious you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re preoccupied, you’re worrying, “I won’t be able to do it.” And so you pull back – you start to fear failure.

[looking at the segment in “Feelings Count” that features Nancy Flanagan]
When you’re talking about kids just on the verge of adolescence, for example, then peers matter enormously. Friendships, relationships, that’s what children are really preoccupied and concerned with. They’re also achievement, about how they’re doing in school, but how they’re getting along with other kids, are they popular enough, do kids want to play with them or not, are they the one who is invited over to the house after school or not? These are the thing that are really preoccupying kids, so this is a beautiful time to start introducing the relationship skills. How you work out conflicts, how you can get along well with other kids. Kids really want to learn these things. So they’re very eager for this kind of education.

When it comes to how to be with students for a teacher, you should first think about your own teachers. Who were the teachers that you loved, who really inspired you, who you learned best from? They’re the ones that respected you, who paid attention to you, who were authentic with you, who tuned into you, who cared. If you don’t care about students they won’t care about you, because there is something false in that relationship. Teaching really depends on a certain emotional bond between teacher and student. If that bond isn’t there, then students start to tune out.

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, and therfore can’t learn from the beginning. So children need help in managing their emotions. That’s one reason; the other is that emotional intelligence – that is, the ability to manage ourselves, handle our own lives, and to handle our relationships, is crucial to life. These are essential life skills. If we don’t teach them to children then we’re in trouble. And in fact, there’s very strong data, which suggests that emotional intelligence abilities are on the decline in American kids. It started with a study first in the mid ’70’s, then again 15 years later which showed that. This is a random sample of more than 3,000 kids representing the entire population of U.S. children, evaluated by their teachers and parents, adults who knew them very well. It showed that children were declining off the board on these abilities. On average they’re more anxious, more lonely, more disobedient, more angry. In other words, they went down on 42 indicators, up on none. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t great kids individually, of course there are. But on average, something very troubling is happening to American children. For that reason I feel that, as a society, we need to pay attention to this problem, because it is showing up as shooting in schools, kids who have a setback like, kids who are teasing them, who come back with a gun. These are emotional outbursts out of control. If we would help children learn these basic abilities in the first place, then we know from well-controlled studies that violence goes down in schools, it doesn’t go up. In other words, these are skills that we need in order for our children to survive the perils of the teen years, and become adults. And also in adulthood these are the skills which will determine whether once our children are in their jobs or over the course of career, they’ll be successful or not.

I think that teachers should realize that they’re in the crucial position. They’re the ones who, just as part of day to day classroom management, can be teaching the skills. Even if a school doesn’t have a full-fledged program in social-emotional learning, a teacher can be herself the agent of that learning. And if a school does have a curriculum, then I think that the teacher is in very good shape. Because it is part of the classroom routine that’s expected of the teacher. But even just in the name of helping children pay attention, settling problems on the playground, and so on, you can be teaching social-emotional skills. You can be helping children with emotional intelligence.

Transcript of Comments By James Comer, M.D.

Excerpts from an interview with James Comer, M.D., Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center and founder of the Yale School Development Program.

Taped August 10, 2001.

Well, learning takes place along several developmental lines that are critically important. There is the physical, the social interactive, the psycho-emotional, the ethical, linguistic, intellectual cognitive. And it is development along all of those lines that’s really important. Up until recently, the school focused on the linguistic and the intellectual cognitive. But it is growth along all those developmental pathways that is important. And the social pathway is particularly important because that is the social context in which the child is learning and the social skills which enables the child to interact with other people successfully. All of that’s required to promote good learning. And that is why people are now beginning to think of the social context and the social skills that children need, because you have to make that contact, contact. The child with the teacher, the child with other children to develop the comfort, the competence, and the confidence necessary to take the chances that are important for learning.

Well, 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.

[Reacting to the way Ken Gillam facilitated a class discussion] Yeah, he, he was doing what my parents used to do around the table, you know. They would have, have us all talk about, we were expected to talk about what went on during the day. Had differing opinions. Respect the others opinion. Listen to the other’s opinion and to express ourselves and not talk too long. But if we had something to say that was particularly important, particularly interesting, you go ahead and listen, let that one talk, and then you kind of reel it back in, so that everybody doesn’t just jump in, but you manage the situation so that it doesn’t get out of hand, and at the same time everybody gets to express themselves. But you don’t cut off prematurely things that are interesting and exciting. You don’t wanna be too mechanical about it, but you want to manage it so that it doesn’t get out of hand.

Because if they knew how to do that well and could control themselves then it, it would work out so that the most aggressive children wouldn’t take over, and the most timid or insecure children would be left out. That would be okay, but you also have to learn that you have to work in a way so that everybody gets to express themselves and everybody feels free to express themselves. And at the same time, everybody respects the right of the other person to have a chance to express themselves. And that’s why you try and manage it so that they come to understand that everybody has to participate, and they should have an opportunity to participate.

Well, it’s important for a teacher to manage the conversation because it can get out of hand and the most aggressive children can take over, the most timid or insecure children will be left out or forced out, and various view, viewpoints will not be introduced, because a few, or one or two children may take over the conversation. And you, so you manage it so that everybody gets to participate, and all the viewpoints can be heard.

Well, the, the social interactions in a classroom, if everybody gets to participate and everybody feels belonging, feels that they have something to contribute, motivates the desire to learn more and to learn everything. Anything that’s brought out in the classroom is something that the child will want tolearn, in part because what happens in a good social climate is that the child makes an emotional attachment to the adult leader and also an emotional attachment to the other children. Now, if everybody in that classroom is engaged in learning and wants to learn, and they know that the teacher wants them to learn, and they have a positive emotional attachment to the teacher, they are then motivated to learn, and that’s what helps children learn things that aren’t particularly interesting or exciting to them, sometimes boring to them. They learn it because the teacher wants them to learn it, and they want tobe a part of a group that, where the group wants to be successful learners. And so it is the social context, a desirable, good, social context that motivates the children to learn anything and everything. And that’s why what teachers should know is that 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.

Well, the misconception about the, the social process in learning is that it doesn’t exist. The problem we have as a society is that we have a very cognitive oriented society. We believe it is very mechanical that you, that you take information and you pour it into the open and willing heads of children, children willing to learn, and that that’s all there is. And you will hear, I have heard teachers say that my job is to teach them, as if teaching them is simply pouring in information. And they forget the fact that all the relationships from the time the teacher walks into the class in the morning, even into the building in the morning, and smiles and interacts with the children and speaks with them about various personal things, all of that creates a climate and a tone that prepares the children and enables the children to make the attachment, that makes them want to learn. And that’s what is very important.

Well, there are ways in which, it’s almost automatically integrated because of what I just said, that, that belonging in, motivates you to learn. But, and learn almost anything. But there are ways to take what’s going on in the life of the child – if it’s election day, if it’s something very exciting that all of the adults are concerned about, like the last election where there was conflict and disagreement and so on and it’s on television and people are talking about things. All of those are activities that are, you know, on the minds of children. If your spelling words, if your, your geometry, if your whole variety here, your literature and all can pick up some of the things that are current and in meaningful and important to the child at the moment because there’s a lot of emotion and tension around them, you don’t forget those things. The, the things we remember are the things that happen to us during emotional, emotionally important moments, and we remember those things better than anything else. And so you grab, you seize the moment in a way to, to make, make it relevant to the core curriculum. But the core curriculum can be made relevant by picking out things. For example, an African-American youngster was asked about the Missouri Compromise and he was not interested in the Missouri Compromise, but he was at the age where he was beginning to establish an identity and his father pointed out, asked him about the, the thirteen, and pointed out that the decision was based on whether the states would come in, slave or free. Now he’s interested. He wants to know more about the Missouri Compromise and he wants to know more about learning in general because they picked, he picked out something that was relevant to the child, emotionally important to the child. The child in the process of establishing his own personal and racial identity is very interested in that question. Now, whenever a teacher has an opportunity to find something in the life of the child that’s exciting, important, and emotionally important, then you try and tie it, and it’s in the core activity, then you try and tie it in.

Well, you know, if you keep in mind that children are born underdeveloped and that they develop along the critical pathways that I mentioned, through all the experiences that they have. Now when you look at their behaviors, whatever their behavior is, you think about whether, what’s going on that shows underdevelopment or a lack of development. If a child has a fight on the playground, what is that about? Is that just a bad child? Well, sometimes the child lacks a, lacks negotiation skills. Or the child may have impulse control problems. It doesn’t know how to work things out, tends to store up his feelings and then explodes. Teachers are in the position to do more than control that situation and punish the child. The teacher’s in the position to explore it, help the children learn how to manage, express themselves, negotiate, discuss, work things out. So you take the activity, whatever it is, whatever comes up, and you keep thinking about how will, how can children manage this better and how can I help them manage it better. And when you have that approach in your mind, you can be helpful in all situations to help children learn to handle themselves socially and develop overall. The children themselves, once you begin to do that, begin to function different, differently. An example, last week I heard a teacher using her school program where one of the ideas, one of the concepts is no-fault. We don’t point the finger of blame at anybody – the teachers, the parents, the children. We try to solve problems. And so they had a substitute teacher come into that environment who didn’t know the rules and the way they worked. And she began to yell at the children and to blame. A seven-year-old stood up and said, “We don’t do that in this school. We have no-fault.” And the substitute teacher went to the principal, what is this no-fault business? And so the child had internalized a way of working and thinking and working out problems that he and the other children were now living by because they had been given those skills by their teachers. And that made for a better environment in the school. The outside teacher wasn’t prepared. She had to be brought in on it so that she could understand it. But the more everybody understands and is thinking all the time, how do I create a condition that will help the children grow and manage themselves better? That’s the social process that we want to create that leads to good social development.

Well, the six developmental pathways is just a way of thinking about overall growth and development. You don’t develop separately along those pathways. It’s all happening at the same time, and development, a social kind of situation effects the cycle of emotional, the ethical, the linguistic, all, all are effected at the same time. But they’re – we live in social environments, and it is usually the social situation that leads to an activity, an incident, a problem, a challenge that causes an adult to interact with the child, and the adult interacts with the child in a way that helps him or her manage that situation and grow along developmental pathways as, as a result of that. And so the, and, and you have to have some sense of where a child is to be able to deal with it. And so, I was in a meeting the other day where a legislative aide spoke with us, and he had brought his son to the meeting. Son was about eight years of age. Now he had prepared, he gave his son his business cards to hand out. First, so he had something meaningful and important to do. But that’s social development also. He had his son introduce himself, and we introduced ourselves, too. Social development. He sat there for a while, and he began to get restless. The father sensed and knew – physical development – that children can’t sit there that, can’t sit still that long. So he asked him if he wanted to go out, and he said, “No.” So he was able to sit a little longer. And then when he really got restless the father asked him again and allowed him to go out. And so it was knowledge of the social development, the importance, the skills that he taught in that little situation, the knowledge of the physical development as well, going on at the same time. But those activities and being there gave that child competence, confidence. He didn’t leave him there long enough for him to have a bad experience, because that would be a loss of confidence. And so confidence and then comfort to be able to operate in that kind of setting came from the activity along those two pathways. And then the ethical pathway is really about what’s right, and what’s wrong, and how children think that out and figure it out as that teacher was doing in, in the video I observed. There was this discussion about slavery and whether the, the masters were right in what they were doing and wrong. And there were moral and ethical issues being discussed there. And it is important, I mean it doesn’t have to be at that level. It is in the level of relationships – child to child, and child to adult, and adult to children where discussions about what is right, wrong, good, or bad can take place. But listening to the child and how they think through what’s right and wrong, and what, what your options are, and what you can do, what else you can do. But helping them think through that is what’s very important. In fact the seven-year-old who told the substitute we don’t do that in this school was confronting and suggesting another way of behaving. So, that, that’s psycho-emotional development as well. 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 and creating those. Teachers have great power. You know, you’re the adult authority in a situation where all of the children are, have less power than you, and you use your power to create desirable conditions for all the children. If you favor one or another, you’re creating doubt, fear, suspicion, lack of confidence – who am I? Does the teacher like me? Does she like Johnny better than me? Why? There are all kinds of things and feelings that children have that can be troublesome in a classroom because of the way the teacher behaves. And so all of the time it’s a consciousness of how your behavior effects the child’s feelings and the child’s comfort, competence and confidence.

You know, you know the, the, I told you about the legislative aide. That’s the question he asked us when I talked about development in school. And what I told him was, is that, it is what you just did with your child. Good child development along all those pathways is no more than good child rearing. It is helping the children learn to manage themselves. And when you do that, they grow, social and interactive, psycho-emotional, ethical, linguistic, intellectual cognitive, physical. Physical also includes the development and growth of the brain. And so every interaction you have with your child helps your child grow along all of those developmental pathways simultaneously. And so rearing your child well, creating conditions where they have confidence and at the same time not allowing them to do things that will get them into great difficulty or, or have them viewed badly by other people, having them behave in ways that are fair, and just, and responsible gets them good feedback, helps them feel good about themselves. And so permissiveness is not good, either. And overcontrolling and, and punitive behavior is not good. There is focus on helping your child, rearing your child in a way so that you help them grow in all of those important areas. That’s what’s important.

It’s unfortunate that most teachers do not have the experience in their pre-service that allows them to understand how children grow and develop and then must be supported in their development in the school. What they really need to understand is that the child is born totally dependent, and yet at eighteen years of age we expect them to be able to do everything. Now, if that’s so, that means that we have to help them grow along all the critical developmental pathways from birth and all the way through, to teach them all of the skills and ha..to have all of the growth necessary to be able to carry out adult tasks, and functions, and responsibilities, and to be successful in school and in order to be successful in life. And that, that starts at the beginning. And at the child-rearing that takes place where the parent provides the warmth and the closeness and support of the, of the child is the beginning of the kind of support necessary to promote growth and development. It doesn’t stop there. When the child enters school, the child has to make an emotional attachment to the teacher, and to the other students, and to the program of the school, the activities of the school in order to be motivated to be a learner. A child has to have a sense of belonging, and that’s why participation, making contribution to the activities of the classroom, all very important and that gives a child a sense of belonging. A child also has to experience fairness and to believe that the teachers care about him and, or her, and want them to be successful, and the teacher has to serve as a model. Children are watching teachers. If teachers behave in troublesome kinds of ways, the child is very likely to behave in a troublesome way and that, your use of your authority in a classroom to make it a fair, good place is what causes children to want to behave in that same way. And so the teacher has to be aware of their great power, and that they have to use it in fair and just ways in order to have good outcomes for the children, and that they are helping the children grow developmentally when they do that.

Well, the key aspects of child development that effect learning is, is the motivation that grows out of the growth along all the developmental pathways. When a child has a good experience, you can just see them grow, with a good social experience, a good learning experience. For example, I watched a child step on the mat that opened the door at the, at the counter, just beyond the counter as his mother was checking out. The mother was busy checking out and the child started a little experimenting. He was surprised when the door opened. And so he went back, he stepped off and the door closed. And he went back and he stepped on it again, the door opened and, came back. And by that time the mother noticed that the child was carrying out this experiment. And then the mother got into it and began to talk to the child about the connection between stepping on the mat and the door opening. And it became a good learning, teaching experience and that child walked away happy with his arms swinging. He had had a good learning experience. He had something, he’d grown. He’d grown intellectually, socially. He, he, he had gained some knowledge ove..of his environment and how you manage it. Those are the things that good parents and good teachers do. And that’s the benefit for the children is growth and a, a feeling of confidence and ability to manage themselves in various environments.

No, no. It’s all, it’s like an oasis. When you give a child a good experience, it’s like an oasis. The child really wants that. But children are very good, you see. They learn how to make it in school and how to make it at home. They know the expectations of the home and the expectations of the school. Better that they have a good and necessary experience at school than not to have one at all. But it’s very important to get parents involved in the work of the school so that they themselves, without having to raise their hand and say I don’t know certain things, can be involved in a way that they learn the connection between their behavior and the way they rear their children, and the ability of the children to perform in school. Now, when I shop at the grocery store, I can predict the students that are gonna do, the children who are gonna do well in school and those who are probably not gonna do well in school. It has to do with the way the parents interact with the child to give them learning experience in pre- and non-school situations and to support inquiry, and thoughtfulness, and reflectiveness, and the desire to know it, manage their environment better. When parents do that, then their children are more likely to be successful in school. But what happens is that parents who are less, well-educated or do not understand – even some who have degrees don’t understand what it takes for the children to have good educational learning experiences. When parents understand that and provide those at home, then they’re more likely to be successful in school. But where children don’t receive it at home, the teacher really has an obligation to provide it and to try and involve parents in the work of the school, so that they can also join with the teacher in giving the children the kinds of experiences they need to be successful in school.

You know, you know, many children gain what they need to be successful in school at home. And so, many children learn to take in information and sit, be able to sit still and take in information when it’s important to do so. They learn that at home. They learn to be spontaneous and curious when it’s important to do so at home. And they learn how, all of the, they have all the social skills necessary to be successful in school. Many children don’t have it and so the teacher has to not see the behavior of a child who’s spontaneous, and curious, and impulsive, and who doesn’t know how to sit still. You don’t wanna see that child as simply bad or troublesome or so on. You see that child as underdeveloped. You understand him or her as underdeveloped. And so, you help them learn what is appropriate, and how to express themselves, and when to wait and you give them all that they need to be successful. It’s that simple to think about it in that way. It is, “What is it the child needs to be successful?” and to explain and to help them, rather than to control and punish for not doing what they’ve never been taught to do, and for not doing what they’ve never been helped to do. There’s another thing about children that you have to remember. They need practice doing things. My favorite story is of the teacher who told Johnny not to run down the hall, and the teacher after several times, Johnny was running down the hall. Finally, he was doing better, but finally he was running down the hall again and the teacher said, “Johnny, didn’t I tell you not to run down the hall?” And Johnny said, “Oops, Mrs. Jones, my head remembered, but my feet forgot.” And that’s a child, you know, children have energy. They’re thinking about lots of things, they’re doing lots of things. They are not well-disciplined yet, and you have to help them. And you have to help them by repeatedly calling upon them to respond in a certain way and understanding, and sometime you’re gonna get frustrated, but understanding, and having them understand that you got frustrated, but you really expect them to respond in this way, and you just have to keep doing it over and over until they develop the capacity and don’t understand it as simply not wanting to do it, being troublesome, trying to give you a bad time. They don’t have the capacity. And so you have to help them develop the capacity to manage in desirable ways. You also have to look at the way you expect things to be done, because maybe your classroom is to rigid, too tight, is unreasonable. What you’re asking may be unreasonable. And so you have to look at what you’re doing in asking of the child, and you also have to ask the child to live up to the expectations of the school in the classroom.

Well they bring, in a cultural context, children come, you know, with their holidays, with their food, with the songs from their culture, music, their style, their ways. And all of it can enrich an environment if we respect the differences that children bring. You know, the school represents a mainstream culture, and children from all backgrounds have differences and activities and ways at home that may be different from the school. You have to honor those and at the same time if they’re truly unacceptable you have to call on them to, to behalf differently. And now that’s also where you involve the parents and why it’s important to have the parents involved. Because if there are cultural ways that are unacceptable and will get the child into trouble in the mainstream environment, then you and the parents will have to have a discussion about why you want things done a certain way and expect certain behaviors in the classroom because of what it permits in the way of school, the classroom, people in the classroom living together and what the child will need to be successful in the larger world. And they can maintain those cultural ways outside of the classroom and in, at home and in their own environment. But you rarely run into that. Most of all, it is the richness and the fullness of cultures brought together that makes a school an exciting place.

I, I, when we have our training, I always ask teachers, veteran teachers, how many of you had a child development course? Ninety percent had child development courses. And then I say, “How many of you had an applied, hands-on, in-practice child development course?” And out of 200 people, three to five will have had that kind of course, where there was a discussion about what a fight on the playground might mean other than a child being bad, and where a supervisor or someone could help them think about that behavior and help them think how to help the child, use that to help the children grow. My point is, I want all teachers to think development and to realize that you are in a social setting, a social context that allows, as a school that allows you, it gives you great power and authority at a time when the children are very dependent. It allows you to help them grow along those developmental pathways in a way that few other people in the lifetime of the child will have. So that you are very, very important in helping children develop very early patterns and skills that will serve them for a lifetime. And if you ignore or pass up that opportunity or simply…and control the children when you could be helping them grow along the developmental pathways, then you haven’t served them well. Now, what does that have to do with academic learning? As I pointed out, it has everything to do with academic learning. It is confidence and competence, and that allows the child to have comfort that motivates them to learn the academic material. And when they’re motivated they will learn anything, because Mrs. Jones wants me to learn. My teacher wants me to learn. And I’m important to my teacher. And so understanding that, you are really an instrument of learning, and that you can help the child grow all, all the developmental pathways and that growth along all the developmental pathways is what makes academic learning most possible. If you can think that, then you will find all kinds of opportunities to help children grow, and develop, and learn, both what it takes to be successful in school and as adult, and to get the academic material they need to be successful as adults.

Children are taught how to manage themselves at home by parents and others in the neighborhood, and they learn from people in their environment. And sometimes they’re taught to fight rather than to cooperate, collaborate, work things out, negotiate. Sometimes children are told that if you don’t fight when Johnny bullies you, you will get another beating at home. Or, children may be taught to cheat, lie, steal. Sometimes not directly, but because they observe their parents doing it, or they deserve other people doing it, or they see it on television. And so they bring all of what they have learned to school with them. But they’re not expected to do that in school. They’re expected to perform differently in school. It is up to the teacher to understand that wherever that undesirable behavior came from, you’re not dealing with a bad child, you’re dealing with troublesome behavior that a child has learned that a child must learn another way of behaving, and that you have to help them learn that the troublesome behavior is unacceptable and will get him into trouble in school, in the classroom, with other people, and that here’s a better way of doing it, or to think about with the child a better way of doing it, because they also know better ways. And you call up on them to think about ways that will be more helpful to them, more helpful to the people around them, more helpful to the school as a community. Again, that’s why it’s important to try and get the parents involved, because the parents need to hear that discussion and be a part of supporting the more desirable, successful ways. It’s also important for parents to understand that a child can learn to be courteous, responsible, a nice boy, in school and still be a rugged, tough kid who can take care of himself on the playground, in the housing project or in a variety of other places. The children are very good in understanding the behavior that is required here as opposed to there.

Many children, particularly those from mainstream backgrounds where their families participate in the mainstream, come with experiences almost from birth that prepare them to be successful in school. They know how to get along with other children. They know how to sit and take in information when it’s important to do so and to be spontaneous and curious when they’re engaged in activities. And, and they are curious and interested and they know how to handle themselves. And it needs to be reinforced in school, but they come with those experiences. Other children do not come with that kind of preparation. And sometimes children, even from mainstream backgrounds simply because they’re an only child, or parents working, or a whole variety of circumstances do not have what it takes to be successful. But many children, particularly mainstream backgrounds, come with all of the social interactional skills necessary to be successful. Also if they’ve had good psycho-emotional experiences they come with a kind of comfort and confidence and belief in themselves that allows them to be successful, whereas many other children do not come with that, and you have to provide it in the school setting so that they can develop that type of comfort.

Well, culture, most cultures provide a sense of belonging, activities that give you traditions and rituals that give you a sense of comfort and belief in yourself, belief in your group, and provide you with what is really necessary to be able to function well. Unless your culture is marginalized or under economic and social stress so that you’re not dealing with culture anymore, you’re dealing with the effects of economic and social stress. Your culture…so that your culture becomes destructive, and harmful, and is not a source of support and pride. But whatever the circumstances, in school you can create comfort, support, belonging, opportunity to participate that will give children the kinds of experiences that allow them to be successful.

Sessions