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Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

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In the last few years, much emphasis has been put on revamping academics, including Common Core State Standards and revised curricula. Yet it’s also important for teachers and parents to be reminded about Social/Emotional Learning, and how this significant piece of education helps K-12 students better function in school.

Simply put, SEL means that children can:

  • Recognize and manage their emotions
  • Learn to solve problems
  • Have empathy
  • Appreciate diversity
  • Recognize their strengths and the strengths of others
  • Work in a cooperative manner

Once these SEL skills are mastered, young students have a much greater chance of school success.

How can a parent help a young child develop these critical SEL skills?

  • When a child is frustrated, help him look for behavior “triggers.” Recognizing triggers that cause frustration and looking for patterns with those triggers can help a child manage their reaction.
  • Give opportunities to “figure things out.” For example, when your child is having difficulty working with a more complex puzzle, don’t jump in to help right away. Give simple hints, and see if she can work it out.
  • When reading stories together stop and ask questions like, “Have you ever felt like that?” or “Do you think that character was right, and why?” This will promote empathy.
  • Encourage him to add diversity to his drawings. Take out books from your local library, and read together about different cultures, countries, religions, etc.
  • Catch her “doing it right!” Pay attention, and recognize and praise your child when things are going well. This rewards and helps a child recognize strengths, and builds self-confidence.
  • Have family “chore” time, family game nights, or family readathons where all family members are working, playing, or reading for a certain length of time. This can foster a child’s early sense of “teamwork.”

Paying attention to small details like these also helps young children become more active listeners, and more attuned to the world around them.

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