girl at blackboardI remember standing at the board in 9th grade with a piece of chalk in my hand with the assignment of diagramming a sentence. I had to know where the verb and the noun and the adjective and the prepositions went. Fast-forward a couple of hours and I am back at the board only this time I am doing long division.

The next day I am finding Madagascar on a map and later that day I am giving a report on the Spanish-American war. Teachers kept giving me assignments and kept making me learn things. They also kept giving lessons and giving me homework and grading the homework and making me take tests. Those teachers kept teaching me - no matter how much I did not want to conjugate verbs or know the Pythagorean theorem. Those teachers kept teaching and after just 12 short years I left with a high school diploma.

Now imagine this classroom. I am sent to the board but there is nothing on the board. The teacher just stares at me and waits for me to do something. Finally as I start to write something on the board she tells me “NO” and gives me a 15 minute detention after school. I wait a few minutes, not really knowing what to do next, and start to write something else on the board and it is followed by another loud “NO” and it is 15 more minutes. The next day a test is given and I don’t have a clue how to answer the questions because it covers things we have never discussed and some of it isn’t even in a language I understand. So the teacher sends me to the principal’s office and I end up in In-School-Suspension for my poor grade. After I serve my time in ISS I go back to class but it is the same thing all over again. It’s like I am supposed to know what to do without being told. I am supposed to understand without being taught.

This doesn’t sound real does it? But the truth is that this scenario plays out every day in every school in every classroom across this country. Teachers are not sitting idly by. They are teaching how to diagram a sentence and the history of this great country. They are teaching their students all about the academics and how to take a test and count and read and all of the great things our academics offer.

But there are a bunch of kids who are standing at the board of social acceptance...

and don’t have a clue how to respond.

There are kids who are asked to sit in a classroom and participate and behave and they don’t know how. There are students who are told to fit in but they can’t grasp the concept. There are kids who are thrust into highly socialized environments without knowing the basics of socialized behavior. And the teachers are are continuing to teach the rigors of academics without realizing these students are being crippled by the absence of social, emotional, and behavioral knowledge.

These students are standing at the board of life and they do not know how to participate. And opportunities and friends and acceptance are passing them by.

frustrated student

Our educational system is founded upon the concept of critical thinking. Teachers are charged with helping children develop the knowledge base they need to assimilate into life but we take it for granted that they are going to have the social and emotional maturity to do so. Schools are charged with increasing and then testing our student’s knowledge and aptitude but then we all cross our fingers and hope that the students will have the social capacity to apply what they have learned in our very socialized society.

Social and emotional skills are a blank board for a lot of kids.

Far too many kids come from home environments where the life skills they need are neither taught nor practiced. There are a lot of other kids who are simply developing socially (maturing) at a much slower pace than their classmates. And as a result, a lot of kids just do not have the social and emotional skills they need to fit in and to cope with the stresses and challenges of life. This results in choices and decisions and behaviors that are not in their best interests.

Do you have any kids standing at the board of behavioral acceptance and staring at it blankly?

Do you have kids who disrupt your class? Do you have kids who just can’t seem to get along?

Sure you do. You have kids, young to old. How good of a teacher would you be if you put a kid at the board and told him to diagram a sentence and the only teaching that you offered was to tell him “NO” when he was wrong?

That’s how a lot of our kids feel about themselves as they try to fit in and try to adjust. They are getting scolded and sent to the office and suspended and they keep waiting for someone to tell them how to do it right. How long do you think it will take for them to just give up?

Kids spirits are being broken every day because we stand them up in front of their peers and think that common sense should tell them how to behave but we don’t take the steps to make sure they have been exposed to and taught common sense social and emotional skills. We take it for granted that they should know how to act and how to behave so we don’t teach it to them. We put them at the board and scold them when they get it wrong and then don’t take the time to teach them how to do it right.

Don’t put your students at the board without first understanding if they know what to do.

Don’t for a minute think that diagramming that sentence is more important than teaching your kids the value they can achieve by participating. Don’t think that history class will prepare them for life when they don’t know how to have a friend and be a friend and participate in life. Don’t think that health classes will assure health when they are hurting inside because they do not fit in. And finally, don’t punish them when they haven’t been taught what to do and what is expected.

Social and emotional skills have to be taught. Otherwise you are putting kids in front of a blank board with no instructions – that’s not educating, that’s just setting them up to fail.