A few weeks ago, a teacher leader shared: “I never dreamed that the day would come when social emotional learning (SEL) would take its rightful place on the educational landscape and be treated with the importance it deserves.” Recently, another educator said that the national focus on child/teen mental health is both “long overdue and just in time.” It is clear from conversations like these and the work represented in schools and districts across our country that we are now attuned to the reality that the brain can’t learn, the mind can’t engage and the person can’t reach her full potential without conditions in place to promote optimal, or at least reasonable, functioning. That is the journey we are on in our self-regulation work (see www.self-regulation.ca) and it is reflected in the following note (edited for brevity) about the factors in play that support the development of professional skill/efficacy. Those factors include:
– the essential role of post-secondary institutions that train, shape and credential the teachers of tomorrow;
– the importance of our teacher “apprenticeship” model, the series of practicum assignments in our K-12 schools; and,
– the school house “norms” and the lived mandate regarding what’s important, what’s valued, what matters.
My correspondent wrote (with a few of my edits for style & brevity):
“…many of our programmes for teachers have been inadequate in preparation for the real classroom they will enter as new professionals. I always thought it was because the programmes/courses of study were focused on curriculum, but now I think it is because pre-service education has not been fully attentive to considering the importance of ‘emotional functioning’ in a world where the teacher’s role far exceeds curriculum expert and classroom manager. Today’s effective educator is attentive to and skilled at shaping and navigating the climate, culture and health of the individual learner and the group of children assembled together in a class. In order to achieve this relatively new expectation, we also need to pay attention to the teacher’s emotional awareness and functioning. Today, our work as reflective practitioners involves so much more than reviewing the achievement results and responding to academic/learning deficits. Teachers consider the emotional climate – each child’s, the class’s and the teacher’s own social/emotional health. We have to encourage each teacher to view/reflect and honour the ‘whole teacher’, including their personal development of emotional, social, cognitive, communication style and their physical and general well-being. It is difficult to be a guide without having walked the trail first. If we are concerned about the holistic development of the individual child , let’s also be attuned to awareness and holistic development of the individual teacher. Self-reflection and attention to monitoring one’s own SEL will enable all of us in the profession to then make the time, take the time, notice and recognise the individual child within their classroom as a person and not just part of the group. Through our self-regulation work and deeper study of this field, more and more professionals feel they have permission to ‘nurture the person within the teacher’ resulting in a transformation of individual teachers that has been quite remarkable…”
Interesting and important perspective. As I read this teacher’s views, I was reminded that this isn’t a linear/sequenced series of steps (first, reframe the teacher training programs, then renovate practicum experiences, then reculture professional focus in schools…); rather it is a call for integrated action so that the educated citizen becomes such a person through scaffolded and supportive interactions and experiences that transcend the mastery of curricular outcomes. Today’s learner is someone who has the confidence, skills, resilience, grit and adaptability to take on new challenges and succeed and fail gracefully, thoughtfully and productively. All of that is much more likely to happen on a learning journey attuned to what individuals need in order to be successful. It’s another way personalized learning comes to life.