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We Need Social and Emotional Learning in Schools: Sign the Call to Action!

Social and emotional learning is a popular topic lately. Chances are you’ve probably heard of it, and if you’re lucky, your kid(s) may go to a school that already focuses on building students’ social and skills.  But what is social and emotional learning and, as parents, why should we care about it and demand it in our schools?

Social and emotional learning is about educating the whole child.

It is about teaching our kids to work with others, manage their emotions, and take charge of their lives and destinies. It recognizes that our kids take into the classroom all their emotions, all their experiences. In addition, our kids spend SO much time in their schools.

This approach to learning recognizes that we can’t compartmentalize kids–asking them to exercise only their academic muscles during these long periods of time. It acknowledges that kids learn better when they are practicing their social, emotional, and academic skills simultaneously.  

 

For over a year I have had the pleasure of being part of the Aspen Institute’s Parent Advisory Panel on social, emotional, and academic development. The Panel is made up of a group of 15 parents from all over the United States from diverse backgrounds and geographical locations– including cities, suburbs and rural areas.

We spent months discussing what social and emotional development looked like for us, and what we, as parents, thought was important when it comes to our children’s learning and growth. We discussed what  role we saw ourselves play in our children’s education, the challenges we saw in public schools in our communities. We also learned about schools doing amazing work to support the whole child. Schools that not only nurture the social, emotional, and academic development of their students, but that also focus on the social and emotional health and well-being of their teachers.

Launch of Family Call to Action

After a year of discussion, we developed our Family Call-to-Action, which we unveiled in April at the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C. Our Call to Action touches on the following points:

–          We need our schools to know and teach the whole student

–          We need to be partners in our children’s learning

–          We need to support adults who support children

–          We need schools to integrate social, emotional, and academic growth into the school culture and climate.

–          We need a whole community approach to our children’s learning.

–          We need to take into consideration the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our children and families.

 

I’m particularly delighted to be part of the Parent Panel because I have seen this work firsthand in my son’s school. The school recognizes that not all children learn in the same way, and that in order to succeed academically, they must nurture the whole child. The school does this by:

  • Using project based learning: Providing opportunities for students develop and practice skills like working with others, solving problems, and communicating.

    My son’s class worked on this class promise together.
  • Ensuring free breakfast and lunch for all kids: Because hungry kids can’t focus, and if they can’t focus, they can’t learn! (*This is a policy in all NYC public schools).
  • Differentiated furniture and classroom setups: Children can sit in different ways throughout the day, and move around in the classroom.

    Kindness discussion in my son’s school
  • Meditation and breathing exercises: My son’s teacher has students meditate and breathe after they come back from gym class in order to get their minds calm and ready for learning.
  • Art and music classes: I highlight this because not all public schools in NYC have art or music classes, but in my son’s school they definitely have prioritized and all kids get music classes and they have a music band. The school also brings in art residencies like Studio in a School.
  • Morning meeting and talking bear. The children start off their day by talking about how they are feeling when they have the bear.  
  • “No one sits alone:” A campaign that encourages children to not let anyone sit alone in the cafeteria.

 

I love that there is a lot of communication with parents, and I feel like a partner in my son’s education. I truly feel like the school is striving to educate the whole child.

If you also believe that educating the whole child is important, and that our schools need to equip teachers with ways to enhance the social, emotional, and academic development of our young people, I invite you to sign our Call to Action at As.pn/CalltoAction.

 

Social and Emotional Learning- Aspen Call To Action

I invite my fellow parents and family members to join us by signaling their support for an approach to education that acknowledges our children as the unique, complex, and whole people that they are!

You can sign the Aspen Institute’s Family Call to Action here: As.pn/CalltoAction

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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