Social Emotional Development, Young Children, and Literacy

I struggle to answer the question - “what do you do for a living?” The easy response is that I am a teacher, but that never seems to capture the real essence of what my day to day experience is. When I tell people that I teach, I usually get a response along the lines of, “oh man, you must have patience!” While it comes and goes, patience is a virtue that we can practice rather frequently as teachers. It is quite a privilege to have such an opportunity. 

People also tend to ask, “well, what subjects do you teach?” This question is very easy to dismiss by just listing off each of the subject areas covered in an elementary school classroom, but truly, is teaching “subjects” all that we do? 

My favorite class as an undergraduate student at Fordham University was The Philosophy of Aristotle. It was in this class, The Philosophy of Aristotle - that I read Metaphysics. In the very first sentence of the great work, Aristotle declares that “All men by nature desire to know.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I wake up every morning and look forward to sitting down for a Morning Meeting with my third graders. Aristotle goes on to formulate one of the most important treatises in human history in his Metaphysics, but today I’m writing to prove how that declaration, that all human beings by nature desire to know, comes to fruition in a third grade classroom through the force of the words we use in the classroom. 

It is no secret that children grow and thrive through positive and supportive relationships. Each day, students in schools of all different shapes and sizes interact with their teachers, their peers, their parents, and their greater school communities. Kids are the focal point upon which schools center themselves around, or at least they should. When teachers and schools are not equipped and prepared to see the world from the eyes of the students they teach, we miss critical opportunities to authentically engage in a way that is impactful. That is why as classroom teachers we are called to be present in the lives of our students as they develop socially and emotionally. 

In the following blog posts, I will share my experiences in learning about social-emotional development and the pivotal role it plays in teaching young children, while exploring specific methods that I have implemented in an effort to create a classroom that is joyful, respectful, and buzzing with excitement to learn in the face of adversity and conflict. These methods are guided by the following questions: 

  • What specific efforts do you make to address your students’ desire to learn in the face of their personal challenges? 
  • How do we create a space that is conducive to quality learning? 
  • What are the characteristics of a classroom in which students are resilient? 
  • What are specific ways to develop resilience in yourself as a teacher and in your students? 

In closing, let us remember that our young children seek to be understood, just as much as we expect them to understand. They seek to be heard, just as much as we require them to listen. They seek to be seen, even more so than we ask them to see. In a modern world that is inundated with information and that demands our attention from several different avenues, more than we can often manage, attention, connection, reasons, and clarity often seems to be one thing that our children seek. How much attention are we actually paying?