Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Need for Social Emotional Learning

There is a shocking and depressing video of our future population harassing a grandmother of 8 which has gone viral. In the video an aged bus monitor employed by the Greece Central School District in Rochester, New York, is moved to tears while being verbally abused by group of middle school students.  Although the full video is above, a 30 second viewing is all you need to lose hope in the future of humanity. The fact that this went on for ten minutes on more than one occasion (there a reportedly three other videos out there), is not only unbelievable but also shows an inability of these children to understand the weight of their actions.

However; every cloud has a silver lining, and fortunately for this patient soul the silver lining is vacation of a lifetime from Indiegogo. People have already raised an estimated $133,000 for this women. According to her Facebook page Karen indicates that she "will continue to work...unless I come into lots of money." Hopefully there will be enough money raised in the next 30 days that she will not have to go through this humiliation again.

As a School Psychologist I believe this is a great, yet poignant, example of the need for a specific and pervasive program of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for our students. These skills need to be directly and specifically taught in order to stem the rise of such bullying. We need to align these programs in our curriculum and value the building blocks of social awareness, just as we value the phonological awareness needed for reading. One way we can work to increase empathy and social awareness in our youth is through Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) . Studies have shown that 8 week MBSR interventions have increased grey matter in the Temporal Parietal Junction (TPJ), which is associated with Empathy and Theory of Mind. Although it is expected for Middle School students to act like.... well children; with intervention and increased emotional awareness we can help to build empathy and interconnectedness that fill foster positive attitudes in future functioning members of society. For more information about SEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social Emotional Learning is a great resource. Mindful Awareness program such as Mind UP and Mindful Schools are also good programs that work on building social/ emotional awareness.

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