My mission is to develop the child as a whole, rather than valuing one component of education over another. Try as they might, our society and hence our education system can only do so much and often falls short of developing a child’s emotional intelligence in favor of extending their academic potential.
As a teacher I often came across this and asked- how can I be teaching fractions to a child whose emotional wellbeing is suffering?
It didn’t make sense and the children didn’t learn. Yet good teachers are often left to ‘soldier on’ with the curriculum despite the emotional state of their students.
I am sure as adults we have attended a meeting or conference when we have not been at ‘peak performance’ – tired, stressed, preoccupied, depressed…How did we cope with the new information presented to us? Did we approach it with enthusiasm and retain everything we heard? Unlikely.
Surely the foundation of real life-long learning is teaching children to understand themselves and navigate their emotions in such a demanding world.
We need to teach them the basics..(not reading and writing- that comes later), more basic than that. We need to go back to the basics of what we are as human beings. We are emotional creatures. We need to understand our emotions, how to cope with them, how to accept them and how to manage them.
This is Emotional Literacy.
We have all heard of kids learning literacy in schools- reading, writing, listening and speaking. But what is emotional literacy?
Well, just as we have to teach children the English language (or any language for that matter) we also have to teach them the language of emotions.
Take two completely different types of children- there’s those who are extremely empathetic and sensitive to the energy around them. These children may feel deeply upset when someone rejects them in the playground or when they see violence on TV. They FEEL everything deeply. These children don’t need to be taught how to read people’s emotional state or how to show empathy, they already have that figured out.
But what they will need is some strategies for managing these BIG emotions, not to take on everyone else’s problems and allow negative energy in. They also need to learn how to remain empathetic without feeling weighed down by the problems of the world. This is where tools like meditation, body movement, yoga, art therapy and journaling can be beneficial.
Then there are the other children who do not understand subtle changes in behaviour, who are unable to read the cues and do not know how to respond to outbursts of emotion (their own or someones else’s). These children need to be explicitly taught what emotions are, what they look like, feel like, sound like, how to respond when they see others feeling a certain way and also how to manage their own emotions.
When we can better understand ourselves and our emotions then we feel more content with who we present to the world.
Imagine if this was the focus of early education? So much so that when our children reached adolescence they were already so connected to who they were that they could navigate any challenge in a self-assured and empathetic manner.