Educators are modern day heroes! Every day, educators are faced with new, more complex and difficult challenges. As I travel across the country, speaking to students, educators, administrators, parents and communities, I hear the frustrations and worries that what we’re doing ‘isn’t working.’ Issues that we experienced when we went to school are continuing and even getting worse.
Bullying has increased by 21% since we started tracking it in 2003 (The Compassionate Achiever, Chris Kukk). This is traditional bullying, we don’t have a handle on the cyber bullying that is seemingly out of control and running rampant.
Mental health issues are on the rise. Nearly half our kids will have had a diagnosable mental illness by the time they’re 18 (Child Mind Institute, “Kids Speak Up Report”). The majority of this is anxiety. The average onset age for anxiety in the US is 6 years old and 70% won’t receive professional help so they suffer alone. The long-term outcomes of anxiety are exactly what we’re seeing in our schools that translate into our society including suicide, depression, mental illness, substance abuse, violence and incarceration.
Trauma is also increasing in schools. More than 20 years ago the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study showed 1 in 5 kids were coming to school traumatized. Today that number is closer to 50%! Keep in mind trauma can be yelling at home to the extreme. We understand through brain research that a child experiencing trauma has difficulty being present and learning.
School safety has had increasing concern. Our traditional focus is on external safety measures including active shooter protocol, arming/not arming school resource offices, door locks, etc., but, while important, do not address the cause of why a student would want to harm themselves or others. Schools must provide proactive solutions that address the cause by teaching kids how to connect, be resilient and manage their emotions.
Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL as its commonly referred to, has been proven through scientific research to reduce and prevent this suffering (Casel.org). SEL teaches kids how to have healthy and meaningful relationships, emotional management and resilience to the issues we know they will face.
The Choose Love Enrichment Program is the next generation of social and emotional learning. It includes positive psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and character education. This program actually teaches children how to Choose Love. The program was created for teachers by teachers so lessons are easy to teach and easy to learn. Lessons take very little time and are lots of fun!Jesse’s chalkboard message of “Nurturing Healing Love” that he wrote shortly before he died helped me realize that if the former student who perpetrated the crime could have been able to give, and receive, ‘nurturing healing love’ then the tragedy would never have happened. It’s as simple as that.
Children that have access to SEL get better grades and test scores, higher attendance and graduation rates, have less stress and anxiety, and less behavioral issues. SEL is a statistically proven way to reduce bullying. Studies that have followed kids into adulthood have found less mental illness, less substance abuse and incarceration. Even less divorce rates!
We are born wired to connect. We have mirror neurons in our brains that help us connect for the survival of our species. However we are not born with the skills and tools we need to have healthy, deep and meaningful relationships. We are not born with the ability to manage difficult emotions. We can learn how to not only become resilient to the challenges and roadblocks that we all face, but even grow and excel through them!
Some believe these essential life skills should be taught at home, and that is true! However not all parents have this knowledge and if you didn’t learn it at home and/or in school you can’t give what you don’t have! When I began to research SEL, I realized that, even as a college graduate, I didn’t have a lot of these skills and tools! I learned them as an adult through the process of creating the Choose Love Enrichment Program and Choose Love At Home! I’ve grown in so many ways, including my ability to communicate, my emotional management and resilience!