Expertise in Social, Emotional and Communication Skills
When students have the opportunity to defend their point of view or articulate their ideas more fully, I become aware of their inability to communicate. I realize that the adults children spend most of their time with, such as teachers and parents, often elicit one or two-word responses from them. As educators, we regularly notice our students are poor writers. However, clear communication and formulating thoughts begins with listening and speaking. This happens when children learn a language. There is so much we can do to help develop these skills. When we develop the speaking skills in young students, writing is easier for them.
Communication is multi-layered. We know body language, choice of words, tone and eye contact are important skills to teach. But, we must also teach how to communicate empathy, perspective and understanding what is unspoken but in the space, such as the speaker’s concern or commitment.
We must teach children to think deeply. This is more challenging with the myriad of interruptions due to digital devices and the effects on the developing brain. As educators, we must be intentional about training our students in higher level thinking, following a line of thought, asking follow-up questions, debating and persuading. We expect them to do this in writing but are they even able to do this when speaking?
We also need to teach appropriate communication including when to say what and how to say it. i.e. One may not use the same tone or choice of words when speaking to a friend at recess as talking to the principal in the office. Or, when relaxing with friends at a party as speaking to a potential employer at a job interview.
Role-modeling is critical for students. Mirror neurons are constantly at work in a child’s brain. That is why children often do what we do but not what we say. Children need to see adults problem-solve when there is a dispute, resolve hard-feelings, express compassion and empathy, collaborate, encourage, work in teams and stay “regulated,” or even-keeled. Children need to see all the characteristics of social and emotional well-being. Then they can copy healthy ways of being.
Children need to try out different modes of communication so they can discover what happens when they, for example, talk to the principal when they are upset in the same way they talk to their sibling when they are angry. Children need opportunities to learn real life lessons without suffering real life consequences.
Having experienced misunderstanding and trauma in my own life and often witnessed that in the lives of my students, I have been developing myself as an expert in social, emotional and communication skills in children as well as in adults. Building that knowledge into cross-curricular work while using experiential and inquiry based learning, provides an authentic integration. Results include students that are:
- Raising academic scores
- Building resilience
- Compassionate, empathetic citizens
- Thrilled about their learning
- Working collaboratively
- Talking about their work outside of class
In fact, the school is buzzing with excited learners who are confident and self-expressed.