EQ Building & the Early Adolescent
Consider the challenges of the early adolescent—the heightened, often overwhelming emotions, the profound biological and hormonal shifts, the frantic search for identity, and desperate need to understand themselves and the world around them but without the fully developed cognitive and emotional tools with which to do so effectively. Early adolescence is a time of acting on impulses without considering the likely consequences, an almost blinding need to fit in, and a compulsion to push boundaries whose meaning and relevance are as yet, a mystery.
And then of course, is the highly formative nature of the brain at this stage of development, which is essentially letting go of countless unused connections in the area of thinking and processing (known as grey matter), and strengthening those connections that are being used. This is, very simply, a time of hard-wiring attitudes, behaviors, preferences, and skills. “Within social and emotional learning literature is a body of work addressing the development of middle school children. This work concludes that social and emotional learning at this age of vast change positively impacts the development of responsibility, encouragement of empathy, and fostering of self-esteem and hope toward personal resilience “ (Brooks, 1999).
So, if we want to ensure that young people are equipped with the tools needed to successfully navigate the challenging terrain of adolescent and adult life, we need to include as part of their education, those classes and activities that promote a positive outlook, healthy behavior patterns, constructive activity preferences, and the development of self-realization skills—in other words, Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
SOME FACT & FIGURES
According to research done by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL goes a long way toward supporting both academic learning and the development of an effective school environment. A recent meta-analysis of more than 300 research studies indicates that SEL programs significantly improve students’ academic performance. The study shows, for example, that an average student enrolled in a SEL program ranks at least 10 percentage points higher on achievement tests than students who do not participate in such programs. These students are also likely to have a better grade point average, attendance records, and classroom behavior, and are less likely to be suspended or disciplined, than children who have not been exposed to SEL programs (Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P., 2005; Zins, et al., 2004). SEL programs can also significantly reduce unhealthy and risk-taking behaviors (Greenberg et al., 2003).
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