This is the third in a series of posts on Stuart Shanker’s book Calm, Alert and Learning. I have written about many books that have resonated with me, but not to this depth. I find that reading slowly, writing weekly and taking the time to reflect is allowing me to go deeper in my thinking and learning.
Shanker posits that students who are cannot deal with negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression etc. find it difficult if not impossible to concentrate. If students can’t concentrate they can’t begin to learn. As educators it is imperative that we remain calm and model emotional self-regulation. Students who can regulate in this domain are able to:
- Modulate strong emotions
- Demonstrate resiliency
- Show a willingness to experiment and try new things
- Have a desire to create and innovate
- Maintain a healthy self-esteem based on awareness of personal efforts and achievement
Negative emotions diminish the ability to demonstrate the actions above, but positive emotions have the opposite effect. Shanker suggests they are critical for sustaining the energy to facilitate learning. We need to understand that cognitive development is directly related to emotional development and therefore create the conditions where this can happen.
When working with students who are struggling with their emotions rather than asking why are we seeing the problems and asking what is wrong with the child, we need to ask what is triggering these issues. Discipline and traditional strategies for misbehaviour simply don’t work. If the students had the skills to monitor their emotions they would. It is incumbent upon us to help the child learn. As I was reading this chapter I was struck by the connection to Ross Greene and his work on Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). I can see how it would be an excellent structure to help students learn to regulate in this domain.
CPS can help students develop their emotional intelligence – a key to emotional regulation. Emotionally Intelligent people are able to practice:
- Self Awareness – identify emotions
- Self-Management modulate their emotions
- Social Awareness – understand the emotions of others
- Relationship Management – deal with interpersonal relationships
When we engage students in Collaborative Problem Solving we help them develop the self-awareness to understand degrees of emotions. Once students begin to understand themselves by becoming aware of signals from their bodies we can help them identify some tools so they can begin on the path towards regulation.