Ask Dr. Blank: What can be done to prioritize social emotional learning?

This question led to a host of associations. In many ways, the social climate of the classroom is so much better than it was years ago. If you look at old  photographs in the Victorian era, classrooms were dreary, crowded, punitive places with not a smidgen of joy to be found. Although it varies greatly from school to school and state to state, the atmosphere in classrooms nowadays is much more relaxed, with good interaction between the students and the teachers. In general, teachers are amazingly giving people and children sense their love and concern.  This is all the more amazing given the increasingly difficult conditions being imposed on teachers through budget cuts, increased class size, endless demands for testing and on and on. 

How have these changes come to pass?
It is difficult to give a precise answer but almost certainly the ways in which
children are viewed nowadays as compared to the past plays a key role. A
hundred years ago, the dominant mantra was “Children
should be seen, but not heard
.” That is clearly not the view today.
Societies views  of children have altered
greatly and schools readily reflect those changes.

At the same time, I am somewhat uneasy with what is involved in “prioritizing” social emotional learning in the classroom. I believe that the social atmosphere of the school should convey positive feelings that make all members—staff and students alike—feel it is a welcoming and beneficial place. But schools have an enormous range of topics and behaviors to cover. Still, every time a significant issue is brought to light –typically by a news media hungry for viewers (drug use, societal diversity, suicide, etc.),  it is common to turn to the school and say, “Here is something else you should tackle.” No single institution can effectively meet such a wide range of challenges, let alone an institution that is steadily facing budget and service cuts.

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