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Emotional Health in Primary Education
In today's hyper-competitive world even young children are subjected to significant pressure to succeed. Getting into the right play group to get into the right preschool to get into the right kindergarten has become a real concern for parents. And while in most cases the parents who worry that a child who doesn't make the grade at age five has already fallen permanently behind are simply hoping for the best possible life for their beloved child they are also forgetting about some of the most important aspects of childrearing.
This paper examines the ways in which young children can and should be treated and taught so that not only their intellect is nurtured (for this is certainly an important part of raising children to have successful adult lives in the 21st century) but that their emotional well-being is also taken care of as well. This paper will investigate why it is that emotional development is essential, not just to help create happy children, but also because emotional well-being is an essential part of development for the whole child.
This paper discusses the connection between a child's personal social development (or PSD) and his or her learning and achievement levels, focusing on the ways in which personal social and health education (or PSHE) can be integrated into the curriculum to promote emotional development - and as a direct result of this emotional development improve learning and achievement.
As we explore the connections between learning and emotional health we must be careful not to fall into the trap of considering intellectual achievements and emotional balance to be entirely different and unrelated. This idea of a split between left brain and right brain activities, or traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine perspectives is both false and fundamentally limiting. Instead of relying on these stereotypes we will instead examine the actual ways in which young children develop and the complex ways in which intellectual and emotional vigor are related to each other.
Achievement, learning and intelligence
Schools across the United States are increasingly focusing on the issue of standardized testing and finding ever-new and ever-more vigorous ways to determine how much knowledge children are acquiring and retaining. While there are certain legitimate questions about such standardized testing (for example, are such tests biased against members certain races or against the children of poorer families) those questions are not the focus of this particular paper.
We shall, like an attorney presenting a case to the jury, stipulate that it true that standardized tests are now popular in school for determining the degree to which children are learning certain facts and that there is at least some connection between those tests and the actual degree of knowledge that the child possesses in certain fields.
What is clearly missing from the tests that are administered under the aegis of teachers and schools and school districts and states is a sense of how it is best to assess the emotional progress of students. This results in part from the fact that as difficult as it is to assess intelligence or IQ it is even more difficult to assess a child's "EQ" or Emotional Quotient. This does not, however, mean that there are not means of measuring emotional and social maturity or that there is not a clear consensus within the world of behavioral scientists as to what exactly normal emotional development should look like in young children.
The following definition of emotional maturation is a widely accepted one:
Emotional intelligence (EI) is sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or emotional literacy. Individuals with emotional intelligence are able to relate to others with compassion and empathy, have well-developed social skills, and use this emotional awareness to direct their actions and behavior. The term was coined in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. In 1995, psychologist/journalist Daniel Goleman published the highly successful Emotional Intelligence, which built on Mayer and Salovey's work and popularized the EI concept.
Mayer and Salovey argued that there are four distinct factors that in each individual compose that person's emotional intelligence. Those four areas are:
The ability to identify emotions, both those that one is feeling oneself and the emotions (or at least the probable emotions) of those around one.
The ability to use one's emotions to help one in thinking about a situationand in making appropriate decisions about how one should act in that situation.
The ability to understand one's own emotions (and later the emotions of others) and especially the ability to understand how one emotion tends to lead to another. (for example, the relief at finding that a loved one who was missing is indeed safe quite often transmutes very quickly into annoyance or anger that the person has made one frightened. As adults we understand this complex emotional switch, but it is something that we had to learn as children.
The ability to manage, or control, our own emotions and to know how to deal with the emotions of others.
One reason that many teachers and parents may not be overly concerned with teaching their children social and emotional skills is that they may believe that such skills are "natural" and therefore something that all humans will acquire proficiency in (just as all non-disabled humans learn how to walk). Certainly making friends seems in some senses to be more "natural" than calculus, but humans can do both because of the ways in which evolution has shaped our brains, and both improve with practice.
Moreover - and this is the central point of this paper - helping children to acquire emotional competence not only allows them to learn other subjects more quickly because they possess the confidence and happiness needed to attempt to master (and to master) new skills but because developing emotional and social skills has neurological ramifications and consequences that make it biologically easier for children to learn math, language arts, and science better as well.
Goleman says research also shows children can learn to be emotionally competent. And perhaps most important, the time line for developing the "neural architecture" that will help children handle emotional impulses is comparatively long: The areas of the brain involved in these decisions develop throughout childhood and early adolescence, giving schools a wide window of opportunity.
The idea that there are a number of different kinds of intelligences, each of which must be nurtured and each of which affects the functioning of other aspects of intelligence is relatively quite a new one within the field of the study of intelligence. The prevailing theory for the past century (and it should be noted that many people still believe that this is the best model for explaining human intelligence - with implications for how we should test intelligence and how we should teach children so that they will become intelligent) was that there was a single, centralized "general intelligence." The researcher who popularized this idea (which in many ways accords with our commonsense ideas about intelligence) was Charles Spearman:
British psychologist, Charles Spearman was one of the first important theorists to tackle the study of human intelligence, introducing an early method of factor analysis. In 1904 he authored his General Intelligence Theory, where all activities share a common general intelligence factor (g). In addition there are also specific abilities (s) that require different levels of this general intelligence.
This theory closely resembles the way intelligence is commonly understood by most people. There is only one intelligence that can be measured, perhaps by IQ tests to measure levels of smartness or not-so-smartness.
The idea of a general intelligence is still popular amongst many, no doubt in many ways because our own experiences in the world have led most of us to the conclusion that we can tell whether the people with whom we interact are, in general, smart or stupid. It rarely if ever occurs to us that some of the people whom we meet that we dismiss as being dim are in fact still suffering from inappropriate teaching methods when they were young.
They may have been so deeply traumatized and/or isolated by teachers (or even parents) insufficiently concerned about their emotional well-being that their intellectual capabilities (along with their inherent human curiosity) became stunted.
An increasing number of educators and researchers share Norris's view that middle schools must pay closer attention to students' emotional development. Their concerns go beyond efforts to boost self-esteem. In a sense, they are talking about the survival skills needed to participate effectively as citizens of a democracy. "All adolescents have basic human needs that must be met if they are to grow up into decent, caring, informed citizens."
However, a number of researchers are created alternative ways to conceptualize as well as measure intelligence. (it should be noted that not all models of intelligence contradict each other; many of them may in fact be used in tandem.)
These alternative models also contain within them models for how best to teach children. One of the most…[continue]
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