Learning builds resilience
It's a mistake to put "social-emotional learning" ahead of academic learning, writes Eva Moskowitz, who created the high-performing Success Academy charter network. Teaching students to do challenging academic work builds resilience, which is linked with mental health.
Even as educational leaders weigh strategies for addressing this achievement crisis, we also hear opinions that it is “impossible to ask kids to tackle difficult academic challenges” without first attending to their underlying emotional needs — a take that has been commonplace throughout the pandemic. “For many students, their mental and emotional health needs to be stabilized in order for learning to take place,” said one Pennsylvania teacher last year, reflecting this sentiment.
Children in crisis need mental-health services, writes Moskowitz. But most students will be healthier and happier, and less prone to depression and anxiety, if they learn to persist in the face of difficulties and uncertainties. "Every class, every lesson, and every homework assignment" can be a mini-exercise in building resilience," she writes.
When scholars experience how errors in their own or peers’ work can give everyone greater clarity and understanding, they see that small failures can be a source of valuable information and a springboard for growth. As this insight takes hold, they become increasingly courageous about grappling with new and difficult concepts and problems — and, critically, they become willing and able to share when they need help.
When Success graduates go on to college and life, they're prepared to face challenges with courage and confidence, Moskowitz writes.