Last time, I wrote that kids are souls and that schools are for building the mind. (That summary leaves a lot out on purpose. To fill in the gaps, click here and give it a read. Won't take longer than five minutes I bet. And there's even a picture of a brain on a stick!)
In response to that article, our colleague Zach Ripley asked a really good question:
As you well know, the most common argument against “stay in your lane” thinking for educators is that students have disparate care and support outside of school, so schools need to fill the gap in all those other areas. I am curious your response to that assertion, and whether you'll address it in a future installment!
Well Zach, my friend, thanks to your great question I went ahead and answered it today on the ol' YouTube.
In brief, here's my two-part answer:
1) Classroom teachers should work to cultivate a love for each student.
(And yes, it's often work.) The presence of a consistent, loving adult is like a social/emotional petri dish.
Okay, that's a gross analogy.
But what I'm saying is that loving contexts breed social and emotional maturation. Once in a while classroom teachers can even directly instruct on social or emotional topics — but these should be the exception, not the rule.
The rule should be this: teaching all students toward mastery of your subject area. Because who else will do this in the child's life?
In the video, I describe it as being a mirror image of Mr. Rogers. His was a show about feelings and relationships that coincidentally taught students about the world (e.g., through videos on Picture Picture or trips to other places in the neighborhood).
In your classroom, aim for the mirror version of Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. Yours is a place about English or science or health that coincidentally teaches students about other parts of being alive, too.
We must always have Everest in view — mastery for all children because such mastery makes it more likely that they'll flourish long-term.
2) Folks outside of the classroom should get together and think up bold but simple solutions for building social-emotional capacity throughout the community over time.
I talk in the video about consistently dripped, bite-sized content v. mass content via sharing a link once or twice through a multi-purposed mass email. You want to build a habit in as many folks as you can to look forward to your team's weekly or bi-weekly video/article/TikTok (shudder) about living better at home.
Within that vehicle, you leverage team strengths and have fun building a content library that you can use long-term. Have a family in your office that's struggling with conflict at home? Your team made a video for that last year. Have a student struggling with perfectionism? You've got a Tok for it. (Is that what they call it?) And this long-term use case isn't even the primary purpose of the content creation — it's a benefit. The primary purpose is building SEL capacity in the community over time.
These two recommendations aren't going to work perfectly, but I think they'll work much better than what I see most of us doing right now. And also, they'll allow folks to focus on developing expertise in their roles (v. quixotic attempts at turning teachers into Swiss Army knives who teach and do all things).
What do you think?
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just comment on the YouTube video, which you can access here.