Image from OpenLibrary.org
Remember that kitschy little book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten? You might remember flashbacks of it during its peak in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Cute little posters were made with the text, and teachers proudly displayed it in their classrooms. The ingenuity of its simpleness spawned a #1 New York Times Bestseller with over 7 million copies sold. The author, Robert Fulghum had apparently struck a sensitive nerve for many Americans–we all need to know the basic principles of ‘how to be a person’, not simply in grade school.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
…Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.
In education, there are wild debates about whether teachers even have the capacity to teach these types of lessons that encourage social and emotional skills within their day. Given the emphasis on testing, national standards and the lagging achievement in American education, teachers are often overwhelmed with the academic information they must teach their classrooms, let alone lessons around responsibility and empathy.
As a nation, solely emphasizing skills in math and science is short-sighted. Though academic achievement is important, it cannot be attained when neglecting the social and emotional needs of our kids. Promotion from kindergarten indicates that the work of becoming a compassionate and understanding person is done.
Yet, these are lessons that must be taught and reinforced throughout life. Relationships only get stickier as we get older. Friendships can become more intricate as elementary schoolers progress to middle school. However learning how to be kind and respectful is a quality that can create stronger communities across the nation. Perhaps a symptom of this breakdown is what seems to be an increase in the severity of bullying in communities both rural and urban.
Teaching How to be a Person Bolsters Academic Achievement!
Research finds that when young people have the basic social and emotional skills to handle everyday life, not only does it enhance their general well-being, but their achievement soars as well. We see this phenomenon being realized in youth development programs on a daily basis and it’s been proven by countless studies conducted by numerous researchers such as the National Collaboration for Youth. In a brief on school success, the National Collaboration for Youth found that “the motivation and concentration levels of young people were much higher in informal youth programs than they were in school (or when hanging out with friends), suggesting the untapped power in youth development programs that can positively impact school performance.”
Why not do both? If research shows these types of skills are critical to learning, wouldn’t it be mutually beneficial for both types of teaching to occur? It is probably true that given the stress on teachers today, they feel they do not have the expertise or time to teach students how to be a good neighbor, make positive decisions or set achievable goals. However, replicating youth development programs in partnership with schools might just be the answer to both issues.
Embedding programs such as Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program, which teaches skills such as good communication and self-regulation, within the school day is just one example of how Wyman is taking an innovative approach to preparing teens to not only be academically qualified, but socially and emotionally ready to become productive members of society. These are lessons that should not only be taught when our young people are first placed into the school system, but also taught throughout their lives. Check out more about our embedded partnership with University City here.