When the computer was first invented, it was thought to have little utility beyond the researchers’ use for crunching numbers quickly. When its speed was first appreciated, the thought was the user would have more time to do other things because the computer would save time doing the calculations for them. Often, though, the opposite has turned out to be true. Rather than sitting back and relaxing while the computer does all the work, the user now has to work harder and faster to keep up with the volume of information the computer puts out! The true utility of the computer has been maximized when it considers the end purpose – providing digestible, usable, meaningful information to enhance the lives of the user. A flood of data (binary x’s and o’s) is meaningless until it is captured through a user interface. The move from DOS to WYSIWYG (yes, I’m dating myself here) shifted from data scripts to user-friendly images.
So, too, is learning in school not just the acquiring of data, especially if the school is focused on educating the whole child, as CJDS most certainly is. Data and information (knowledge) are only useful if they can be applied to the lives of students in some meaningful way. Ultimately, this involves interaction with others to receive the information, and express the information in relationship with others. As children participate in school, they “interface” through social behaviors and emotional understanding and expression, between themselves and their peers, faculty, and staff. Our students need a core set of skills to interact with others in friendly, productive ways. This interface does not stop there, it extends, of course, to their family lives and their interactions in the community and with the world.
This is why great schools decide to teach social-emotional skills to help students most effectively “interface” with others. CJDS is in important company with this researched practice. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (SEL) has researched evidence-based elements of SEL and identified 5 core competencies:
3) Social Awareness
4) Relationship Skills, and
5) Responsible Decision-Making
What a valuable opportunity we have to report on growth of the whole child, through CJDS’s initiative to report student work through e-Portfolios. Just as we value intellectual sophistication and academic growth, it is powerful to explicitly capture and convey social emotional work that students do at CJDS. Specific skills within each competency include:
1) identifying emotions, accurate self-perception, recognizing strengths, self-confidence, self-efficacy
2) impulse control, stress management, self-discipline, self-motivation, goal-setting, organizational skills
3) perspective-taking, empathy, appreciating diversity, respect for others
4) communication, social engagement, relationship-building, teamwork, and
5) identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems, evaluating, reflecting, and ethical responsibility. I am working with the school’s leaders to determine how to most effectively incorporate SEL into a well-rounded account of whole child learning and growth.
What a wonderful opportunity for partnership! May we all join together to such an end as to foster the development of these skills in each of the children within our care.
Dr. Brent Bloomster (“Dr. B”)