For as long as I have worked in education, I have always believed that educators must pay attention to more than just the academic curriculum. Teaching reading, math, art, music, etc. is of course very important, but educators will have difficulty fully engaging students in these subjects if they do not first address the social/emotional environment. The ways in which students interact with one another and with adults create the climate of an organization. Ideally the social/emotional climate provides a sense of safety within a community that allows learning to flourish. When the environment is negative or unsafe, it is much more difficult for learning to take place. I have always promoted the idea that healthy, productive schools need a well-articulated, explicitly taught social/emotional curriculum that teaches and reinforces inter- and intra-personal awareness, social skills, and self-regulation strategies to ensure that academic learning can proceed effectively.
I recently read an article in the Washington Post that gives another reason why we should be paying attention to the social/emotional curriculum: studies have now shown that early, positive social skills actually predict success later in life. The article starts off by saying “Kindergartners who share, cooperate and are helpful are more likely to have a college degree and a job 20 years later than children who lack those social skills, according to a new study. Kids who get along well with others also are less likely to have substance-abuse problems and run-ins with the law.” This is great (although not surprising) news for Seneca Academy students, as we intentionally teach, model and practice these types of skills throughout our classes. We receive frequent comments about our well-behaved students. We can be confident that because of this, they are able to engage more fully in learning activities and will have positive, bright futures.