Last month’s blog focused on the “G” (gratitude) in the word “Thanksgiving.” Of the ten blogs I have written this past year, the “G” blog received the most responses.
Well, when you’re on a roll, why change things?
So as you know, the word “December” has three E’s in it. I selected three special E’s to discuss this month – Emotions, Empathy and Engagement.
Several months ago I read Dacher Keltner’s book, Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. He writes that emotions that bring out the “good in others and in one’s self can readily be cultivated” [taught and learned, observed and practiced, modeled and mentored]. “Emotions,” he says, are “the core of our capacities for virtue and cooperation, love and tenderness, and other virtues.”
It’s not news to you that social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are capturing the attention of school personnel and the public. In my March issue of News You Can Use, I provided an array of resources for teachers and administrators who want to implement SEL in their schools.
In a major report titled, The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students, researchers from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning found that SEL programs improved students’ social-emotional skills, attitudes about self and others, connections to school, positive social behavior, academic performance, reduced students’ conduct problems and emotional distress. Bottom-line: SEL programs are among the most successful youth- development programs offered to school-age youth.
In one of my blogs, I asked and answered nine questions about empathy. Let me share with you a very important piece of information that teachers and others need for teaching students about empathy.
Researchers Dan Goleman and Paul Ekman report that there are three different ways teachers (and others) must address the teaching and learning of empathy.
- The first stage of becoming empathetic is cognitive empathy – the act of knowing how another person feels.
- The second stage is emotional empathy – the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.
- The third stage is compassionate empathy – the combination of cognitive and emotional empathy to take action about what one feels and thinks.
Atticus Finch said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”
(To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
That’s a good way of defining empathy – understanding what someone else is feeling because you have experienced it yourself or you can put yourself in his/her shoes.
Engagement includes relationships. So let’s start with some interesting information about “engagement” and then follow that with commentary about “relationships.”
A Gallup Poll found that 63% of students in schools are “highly engaged and enthusiastic about school.” Interestingly, there is an “engagement slide” – peaking during elementary school, decreasing through middle school and early high school, and then increasing through the rest of high school.
In a Kappan article on engagement in schools and classrooms, Shane J. Lopez reports that students polled suggest four ways to keep them engaged—note the relationships factor in each:
1) prepare them for the rigors of the work;
2) get to know them;
3) praise and recognize them for good school work, and;
4) have a school wide commit to building the strengths of each student.
“Teachers who are engaged in their work tend to have students who are engaged in learning.”
It is clear that in schools and in life there is a very close connection between emotions, engagement (relationships), and empathy. As author Robert J. Marzano writes:
Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction. If the relationship is strong, instructional strategies seem to be more effective. Conversely, a weak or negative relationship will mute or even negate the benefits of even the most effective instructional strategies.
During this month let us celebrate and apply at home, in school, and where we work these positive emotions—joy, gratitude, hope, inspiration, awe and LOVE.
During this month let us not engage in what Professor William Glasser calls the “seven deadly habits of relationships – criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to control.”
During this month let’s respond positively to Maria Shriver’s request that all of us join the “Inner Peace Corps.” She reminds us that “we are the American family and many of us are hurting and feeling isolated, lonely and scared. Let’s step up. Let’s serve one another. Let’s be friends.”