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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teaching kids to share crayons isn’t intrusive

Teaching social and emotional skills — done properly — is an essential part of teaching, argues Fordham intern Nathaniel Grossman. It’s not a frill that takes time from reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, nor an intrusion on parents’ rights.

Good programs, such as the popular 

Responsive Classroom, help build a classroom community and set norms and learning routines, he writes. Students learn to listen, take turns and deal with their emotions. That pays off in academic learning throughout the year.

As an elementary teacher, he used When Sophie Gets Angry, Big Al and Aesop’s Fables, plus practice in virtues such as empathy, courage and perseverance.

Some SEL programs are bunk,” he concedes. Teachers should “avoid the squishier, New Age–inspired content around happiness and self-actualization” and focus on lessons that have buy-in from parents. (Also, let parents know what you’re teaching.

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) has become a new flashpoint in our

educational culture wars,” writes Rick Hess.

Some Texas parents see character education as government infringement on parents’ rights. My children “don’t belong to the government,” Hollie Plemons told the Texas state school board. “They belong to me. I don’t want the government to teach my children character. That’s my job, and it’s a job I want to keep… Please stay in your lane . . . Focus on academics, and let the parents parent.”

SEL can and should be politically neutral, Grossman writes. “The children of Democrats and the children of Republicans both need to learn how to share crayons and use kind words.”

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