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Social Emotional Learning – What It’s All About by Rodger Dinwiddie, STARS Executive Director


No Emotion Left Behind. The title of an article I read a few years ago. To quote authors Timothy Shriver and Roger Weissberg, “The debate over education reform has tended to divide children’s learning along two axes, the emotional and the academic. Either we can address children’s academic performance, the conventional thinking holds, or we can address their emotional and social needs.”

I agree with the authors … we don’t have to choose between academic achievement and the development of character. We can and must focus on both.  There is uniform agreement that we want all of our young people to have the necessary academic skills to be successful and thrive. But, there are other skills employer’s desire, and there is an abundance of research to support that these skills are just as important. Who wants to hire employees that are not loyal, dependable, and accountable, and cannot manage conflicts, settle disputes, bully others in the workplace, take responsibility and tell the truth? Social Emotional Learning is what the “other side of the report card” is all about.

Authors Shriver and Weissberg describe social emotional learning as “the process through which children learn to recognize and manage emotions. It allows them to understand and interact with others, to make good decisions and to behave ethically and responsibly.” At STARS the services we offer in the schools are all designed to help address the social and emotional barriers to learning which have many origins. Addressing the multiple risks that young people deal with each day and offering supportive, caring relationships with adults and peers is just part of what STARS does to help students learn and practice these very basic “social and emotional skills” that will serve as guides for the rest of their lives. It should be obvious that Shriver and Weisberg are right … both sides of the report card are important … the only problem … time and funding are disproportionately appropriated and the “other side of the report card” is often neglected.  In the era of No Child Left Behind, I’m afraid that we have left far too many behind. Maybe it’s time to rebalance the ledger. In this space we’ll take a look at one of the key issues impacting the social and emotional well being of our young people – bullying and harassment.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.