Social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools makes many parents and teachers nervous. We worry there’s an ulterior motive to collect behavioral data on how children think and act, and that the ultimate goal is to privatize public schools and track students.
Talk about transforming our public schools away from cognitive learning to SEL is everywhere!
Those promoting this kind of push for self-regulation of students and massive character data collection claim that teachers have methodically taught students without caring about their feelings.
This is an insult, especially since the test-and-punish era that hurt students, came from the same outside corporate reformers who mean to privatize public schools and who are now promoting social-emotional learning!
It’s the roadblocks that have been put in a teacher’s way by corporate outsiders that have made teaching regimented and cold. High-stakes testing, and increasingly difficult standards, rigor, even for kindergarteners, were created to shut down public schools. This never came from teachers!
I looked forward to reading David Brooks’s New York Times Opinion piece, “Students Learn from People They Love.” Subheading: “Putting relationship quality at the center of education.”
It’s easy to get sucked into this. Most teachers want to be liked and care about their students. But Brooks is promoting SEL.
Also, it took reading the whole article before I realized that Brooks said “People” in the title. Not teachers.
Call me picky, but that seems significant considering that thousands of teachers scrambled through the unusually rainy LA streets last week fighting, and they continue to march not for higher wages for themselves so much, as for better conditions for their students.
They simply want decent class sizes, nurses, counselors, and librarians.
They demand great public schools for a great democracy. If that’s not love, what is?
Brooks never mentions the strike.
The article deteriorates quickly into an assumption that teaching has been top down, and teachers have never cared about student emotions.
We used to have this top-down notion that reason was on a teeter-totter with emotion. If you wanted to be rational and think well, you had to suppress those primitive gremlins, the emotions. Teaching consisted of dispassionately downloading knowledge into students’ brains.
But K-12 teachers have always been keenly aware of the feelings their students bring to school. It’s tough to teach a student who’s struggling, and teachers from kindergarten on up have always addressed behavior, even character education.
And what teacher doesn’t go into teaching without passion for their subject?
Teachers have also tried to understand the problems that consume students outside of school, because problems at home affect how students learn. Special education is much about this.
Brooks goes on to hype neuroscience.
That early neuroscience breakthrough reminded us that a key job of a school is to give students new things to love — an exciting field of study, new friends. It reminded us that what teachers really teach is themselves — their contagious passion for their subjects and students. It reminded us that children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another [what?], and offering active care for the whole person.
Do teachers need neuroscience to tell us this? It’s why teachers teach!
Brooks says: Extreme negative emotions, like fear, can have a devastating effect on a student’s ability to learn.
Yes! It’s why teachers are fighting for more counselors! It’s why they’re telling California that a class size of forty-five students is unacceptable!
But he goes on, promoting social-emotional learning and stuff about brain science and emotion. Some of the points are good, but some are iffy.
…students have got to have a good relationship with teachers.
…when classes are going well, the student brain activity synchronizes with the teacher’s brain activity.
…In good times and bad, good teachers and good students co-regulate each other.
Do teachers have to have a good relationship with students? Even that’s questionable.
No teacher should be cruel to students. That’s unacceptable. But not all teachers are popular. Most of us have had teachers we didn’t love, but who taught us well.
A student once told me that they don’t care if they like a teacher, if that teacher is fair.
Sure, if a teacher can “co-regulate,” great! But implying that teachers need to be loved by their students is another way to judge teaching and teachers.
Brooks claims teachers need to do more to understand students, but he doesn’t address the need for smaller class sizes, counselors, nurses and librarians.
His idea seems to call for teachers to replace desks with couches where students can pour out their feelings while they’re learning algebra!
Like all the corporate school reformers, he wants us to believe there’s the perfect teacher, and that all teachers must aspire to be the perfect teacher. And teachers must be more psychiatrist than teacher.
He ignores the sorry realities of underfunded public schools. Such realities show students how unloved they truly are, by a country of politicians and corporate executives who sold out on them long ago.
It’s the teachers who are fighting for students!
Brooks goes on to link us to that social-emotional report about students from the corporate think tank the Aspen Institute called “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope.”
More distrustful words with an ulterior motive. It’s all about privatization of our public schools and tracking.
David Brooks. “Students Learn from People They Love: Putting relationship quality at the center of education.” The New York Times. Jan. 17,2019.
Roy Turrentine says
David Brooks’ as his bio states, is the product of a suburban Philadelphia school and the U of Chicago. When he was going through school, those suburban public schools were the best in the land. Their parents had moved there to work in great jobs and have lives that allowed them to preside over the maintainence of the American Dream.
David Brooks should be smart enough to know that teachers are meant to try to get kids excited about their subjects. He should not need a bunch of people at Aspen to tell him about the neuroscience of the matter. Common sense, Nonwithstanding Einstein’s advice to the contrary, does have some use.
When will people outside of education ever understand? Teaching is so much more complex than it ever seems from the other side of the desk. All the pundits and advisors forget what it is like three weeks after they leave the profession, if they ever get to even view the profession.
Nancy Bailey says
Also Eli Broad and the Waltons went to public schools! You would think they would be eager to support them instead of seeing them destroyed. I have never understood it. Thanks, Roy!
They did…but in their days of public schooling, there was still prayer. Now, I don’t know if Broad is a religious wacko, but the Walton’s…..they are all about the “one” religion.
Howard Phillips says
“We didn’t do algebra this morning, we learned not to smack teddy bears.”
Thank you for writing this article. I couldn’t believe the number of people who bought into what David Brooks was saying without understanding that the Aspen Institute by publication of the mentioned article and others seems to be promoting and advocating for the tracking of our children’s data.
Teachers have always been dealing with a child’s social and emotional concerns but this fact does not require social emotional concern data to be stored on file for students.
You make some great points. It is not necessary for a student to love a teacher so long as that teacher is competent in the classroom and students are making good progress.. Not all teachers will be beloved by all students but almost all teachers have something to offer their students in the classroom.
I was surprised Brook’s op ed piece was published by the New York Times.