Posts for September 2019

Thoughtful Learning Blog

The Thoughtful Learning blog features articles about English language arts, 21st century skills, and social-emotional learning. Insights come from the teachers, writers, and developers at Thoughtful Learning, who have been creating top-notch instructional materials for more than 40 years.

girls dancing and jumping in mid-air
Derek Latta/

“So, you’re a teacher. What do you teach?”

“I teach children.”

In an environment of standards and assessments, we sometimes struggle to focus on the kids, who are, after all, the reason we teach. Yes, they can be infuriating, but they can also be amazing and inspiring. The greatest moment for us is when that light comes on in a student’s eyes, when the child “gets it” for the first time. It’s like a sunrise that only we get to witness.

So education is about reading and writing and ‘rithmetic, but before all of those, it’s about kids—minds, bodies, and souls. The whole child. We all instinctively know this, but so little of our curriculum reflects it.

Sobering Statistics

Over 70 percent of us recognize the importance of teaching social-emotional skills, not only for the well-being of our students but also for easier classroom management and higher test scores. However, a recent article in Education Week presents some sobering facts:

  • 43 percent of us aren’t sure how “to help students who appear to be struggling with problems outside of school."
  • 23 percent of us say our biggest struggle is helping “students who appear to be experiencing emotional or psychological distress."
  • 50 percent of students in the U.S. experience childhood traumas such as neglect or abuse, which impact their learning and remain with them for the rest of their lives.
  • Less than 40 percent of us have learned teaching strategies for dealing with childhood trauma.

So we do what we always do—figure it out. Lacking formal training, 70 percent of teachers rely on talking with students to help coach them through emotional distress. But most of us would prefer concrete strategies that we can easily learn and teach without derailing our content instruction.

Cats dropped upside down land on their feet. How? It’s not magic. They go through a process.

The cat first realizes it is falling upside down.

It then spins its tail to turn its head and front legs toward the ground.

It continues to spin its tail to counteract the spin of its back legs.

Its feet extend, and its back arches to serve as shock absorbers.

Its legs and back absorb the impact.

Image from Agence Nature/Science Source

Don’t try this at home. (Afterward, the cat usually scratches the person who dropped it and never will love that person again.)

Successful adults act pretty much the same way. Constantly dropped upside down, they land on their feet (and dislike those who dropped them). How do adults do it? It’s not magic. They use the problem-solving process, which is just as effective and undignified as the falling-cat process—and just as likely not to be taught in schools.

To help your students prepare for “adulting,” teach them the problem-solving process.