Emotion in Education: An Interview with Maurice Elias

>>Social emotional learning
started out as I think, a little hobby that some people had. It was an idea that we
thought would be a good thing to help kids feel better
about themselves and maybe prevent some problems. But as we started to study the
impact of this, we began to realize that this is a very
serious part of education. That not one single
classroom can function without a good inter-personal set
of relationships between the kids, with each other and between
the teacher and the kids, the teacher and the principal. The whole thing is inter-personal. So what we thought was sort of
marginal and maybe a little off to the side, now we start to
realize, this is the foundation of what all learning is about. And then we started to reflect on teachers we’ve had
when we were younger. And we all had teachers
when we were younger. Some were good teachers,
some were not so good. But you know, we all
remember teachers who affected us in a profound way. And it turns out that what we
learned from those teachers, has stayed with us
longer than anything else, even when we’ve taken the
standardized tests and passed tests and I took the Regents in New
York and you do all that stuff. The only thing that matters is
whether there was a caring context for what you learned,
because that stays with you. My own view is that we’re
starting to realize, social and emotional development
is an absolutely essential part of academic success
and success in life. Unapologetically, we have
to make an integral part of everything that
happens in schools. When that happens, I think
we’re gonna have schools that are more productive and I think
we’re gonna even transform kids to be the kinds of kids that I
think we talk about when we say, “Oh we want our kids to
become better citizens. We want our kids to be more caring.” We need to give them opportunities
to do that in the schools. And then they will actually turn
around and do that in their lives. So I am very excited about
where we’re at right now, but we’re at a crossroads. The crossroads is that
it’s not something that only happens in classrooms. It’s not something that
only happens in programs. It’s something that has to be a basic
part of the way every single educator that steps into the
building sees their job. Teachers, principals, psychologists,
social workers, counselors, every school staff member, if you
ask them, “What are you doing here?” Their first answer should be,
“I’m here to promote the social and emotional and academic
development of children. That’s my job. That’s what I’m here for.” And we’re going to do this
in a collaborative way and that’s how we have a
chance to be successful. But we’re not there yet and that’s
the big challenge that I see. I’m involved in a project in New Jersey called developing
safe and civil schools. And the State Department
of Education of New Jersey, has mandated our project to try to
bring social and emotional learning to all 2400 New Jersey schools. And we have over 600 districts
and we’re gonna do this. And the reason we’re gonna do it, is because we don’t have
to start from scratch. It’s already there. You talk to teachers and you ask
them why they came into this field and they’ll tell you, we
wanted to affect children and make them into better people. We just have to provide
the opportunities. And I think we’ll find that when
we build from the bottom up, when we take what’s already in place,
tweak it, nurture it and most of all, interconnect it, we are
gonna be successful. The analogy that I like
to use is that of a quilt. There are many programs in place
that we’re giving our children and I see them as pieces of a quilt. They’re all beautiful individually
but they don’t make anybody warm until you stitch them together. Two pieces, three pieces,
four pieces, stitched together coherently,
cohesively. And we don’t know, nobody
knows really how many pieces of a quilt it takes
to make a child warm. But I do know that it doesn’t
take covering the absolute, entire body of the child. We just have to keep
stitching those pieces together and we are gonna find
ourselves being successful. We’re going to reach
the tipping point. And our kids and our schools
are going to find that they are in the business of promoting social,
emotional and academic learning as a totality, as a
unity and not in pieces. And I think we can do this. And I’m very optimistic about this. This is a field that is as
well supported by research as any other endeavor in education. It’s as well supported by
research as most of what we know about psychotherapy and
other kinds of interventions. We are talking about a field
that makes sense in our hearts. It makes sense in our minds. It makes sense in our
data and we can do it. So I think this is something that
really can join us all together, across disciplines and not
just leave no child behind, but dedicate ourselves to moving
every child forward as far as their potential can take them. That’s an exciting
and fun thing to do.>>For more information on what works in public education,
go to edutopia.org.

2 thoughts on “Emotion in Education: An Interview with Maurice Elias”

  1. Social emotional learning is of value when genuinely aimed at providing a sound understanding of the advantages for everyone, not just the student, of promoting instincts to develop sympathy and empathy. for others. "Emotional Intelligence" promoters ignore revealing most hard truths about life.and , In particular, promote communication and relationship "life skills" aimed at personal financial gain . For real impact I suggest a few films illustrating world hunger and disease.

  2. I so agree with this and love the quilt analogy. I am so passionate about this topic that I dedicated my work to creating an SEL curriculum where students can explicitly learn important SEL skills on a daily basis in the classroom. Good luck New Jersey, I hope you will be an exemplary leader in adopting SEL in our schools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *