I've been listening to random podcasts on my commute to and from work everyday, and I wish I had heard yesterday's earlier, while I was writing this post on school climate and empathy. This American Life's "Back To School" episode was phenomenal. Inspiring. Motivating. Not only can students learn empathy, develop better social skills, and impulse control, but I learned that these skills can help test scores. What?! Test scores?! Now maybe there's an actual point to changing the focus from academic development to also include social and emotional development, at least as far as our education leaders are concerned. Host Ira Glass spoke with How Children Succeed's Paul Tough on the importance of empathy, resiliency, and tenacity. When students live in stressful homes, which exist in most of our poverty-stricken communities, it affects their brain development. The release of extra cortisol (our fight-or-flight hormone) limits the growth of non-cognitive, or non-academic, skills. Children can indeed learn these "soft" or social skills, as long as they are offered relationships within which to foster these skills. Early intervention is key, but it is possible in the pre-adolescent and adolescent years, as well. According to Tough, it is the children with greatest impulse control and emotional intelligence who succeed on standardized testing. Obviously, these are going to be children with excellent cognitive skills, as well, but recent studies show that non-cognitive interventions are having positive results for children, both emotionally and academically.
Have you experienced this first-hand? Have you seen children grow academically, as they receive training to, ultimately, be more empathetic?
Is empathy the answer to society's problems? Or do you think this "emotional intelligence" is a fad only to fade away sooner or later?
I intend this blog to be a reflection journal of sorts, on topics such as teaching, leadership, pedagogy, and tacos.