Daniel Goleman of Emotional Intelligence fame and Peter Senge, organizational and systems thinking guru from MIT, partner to create a small (fits in a pocket or a purse) less than 90 page book worth the under $15 purchase. Try it for a group book read or a PLC or your own personal professional improvement plan.
Goleman begins with a chapter on Rebooting an Education for Life and speaks to Social Emotional Learning and the five points that are now core abilities taught in SEL.
- social skills
- good decision-making
Goleman expands his SEL approach to include "attention training" -- mindful of the impulse to stay focused and ignore distractions. He gives examples of "breathing buddies" in a second grade classroom in Spanish Harlem. He references a book called How Children Succeed that discusses the value of "grit." The unexpected bonus of strengthening a child's cognitive control shows that the same circuitry that helps to focus on a goal is also the one that manages destructive emotions. Goleman shares some long term research, including the famous marshmallow study, to support benefits like improved concentration and better resistance to distractions, as well as lowered anxiety.
Goleman then turns to tuning into other people. The tie between empathy and academic success is developed into characteristics of the best team members, effective leaders and good organizational citizens in the working world. He sasks second graders to brainstorm the answers to the questions: "What's the best way to respond if you think another student has taken your crayon? What would make it better? What would make it worse?" Then he makes the questions into suitable situations for fourth graders and then eighth graders. The dialogue that students have helps them to increase their decision making skills. He addresses technology and data gathered by the senses in ways that complement and contradict some belief patterns.
Senge takes over looking at systems thinking and systems intelligence, where we know that effective implementation is rarely going to happen unless teachers and administrators get better at working together and resolving their conflicts. Dynamic complexity extends to the many systems involved in schools, learning, society and structures. The obvious is stated, "understanding complex problems is confounded by a second layer of complexity: the presence of different people and groups who truly see the world differently." This challenges our emotional as well as cognitive development. Three six year old boys sit at the playground and come up with a diagram to find a solution to the many fights on the playground. As they focus on "hurt feelings" and "mean words." They actually use a diagram to come up with alternative ways of dealing with the situations they witnessed. Senge's chart on The Habits of a Systems Thinker would be suitable for classroom walls. Check it out on page 61.
Goleman and Senge partner in the last chapter to address the importance of merging SEL and systems education. There is a synergy that has to do with transforming pedagogy and the culture of schools. Neither effective SEL nor effective systems education can be accomplished by traditional pedagogy. Engaging teachers, parents and students to create authentic systems for learning can assist in creating the critical mass that can lead to the changes we would like to see in our systems, our students and our schools.
Quick read, but worth the time as the multiple examples will stay with you and make it easy to share with your colleagues. Makes sense! And that is refreshing in many ways.