Earlier today, I wrote about social and emotional health in Dallas students, specifically how I've tried to address it in my classroom. Kids that are hungry, tired, emotionally distressed, or mentally unhealthy don't come to class prepared to learn compared to their peers who don't fall into those descriptions. Why should we concern ourselves with that instead of just focusing on our content and the tests?
TEACHERS AREN'T THERAPISTS. They shouldn't be expected to be. What teachers can do is be part of the solution process though. We can mitigate the damage that is done elsewhere even if it's just a little bit.
***Now for the science***
Research shows that our brains are wired for social connection. We're creatures of feeling rather that thinking. Emotion rather than cold rationality. Studies have proven that physical pain and social rejection activate the same part of the brain. The prefrontal lobe, where planning and problem solving come from, are less active when we experience social rejection. It does double duty between emotional response and decision making. If this is true, which it seems to be, I can understand how constant negative emotional stimulus can begin and sustain a slippery slope to academic failure.
The bright side is that, while we experience negativity more frequently, we also rebound from negative emotions quicker as well. If that is scientifically supported, that also means that a single positive interaction could turn around a kid that is used to negativity and experiences it all day everyday.
How can we help? Stop shaming kids. Sometimes our sarcasm, preferential treatment, and even banishment of kids have a severe impact on their academic success. We help them become the embodiment of everything we think a student shouldn't be. Then it becomes a cycle of walk in, get into it, kick the kid out that some teachers never break the whole year. I know I had a student or two I loved when they were absent or sent to the library more times that probably made sense. The class was better without them, but that hurt them. Are we called to do the most for the highest number of kids or help every student that crosses our threshold? I believe it is the latter, but the former strikes me as the most realistic. I'm working on it.
Dallas Teacher Sarcasm
Dallas Student Social and Emotional Health