What are we really teaching our kids in schools?

Tiyanna Washington is a NYC-based licensed social worker and youth mental health advocate

A square + B square = C square. Order of Operations = PEMDAS (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition & Subtraction) My high school math teachers would be proud. As great as it is that I remember these math equations and acronyms, I honestly cannot tell you how they have helped me in my adult life or career. These math equations and acronyms have been drilled into my brain like so many others. However you know what would have been more helpful? If somehow, the school system found a way to implement social-emotional learning based classrooms, aimed at teaching emotional health & wellness skills i.e. understanding what coping skills are, building one’s resiliency, how to process and regulate one’s emotions and mood or how best to deal with daily stressors. Imagine the possibilities if our school system found a way to strike a balance in meeting students’ social-emotional needs while still honoring the importance of a strong academic foundation.  

Call me foolish, but I don’t think my first experience in understanding the impact of trauma or ways to make connections between trauma and one’s mental and emotional well-being, should have been in graduate school. Call me foolish, but I don’t think that certain academic expectations should be placed on children, if we are not also meeting their social-emotional needs. How is it that we are expecting young people to perform academically, regulate their mood and behaviors and sit in a classroom for multiple cycles of 45 min learning sessions (sometimes more), when they are sometimes living in a constant state of internal confusion and dysfunction? If we are not equipping our youth with the necessary tools and skills to process and regulate their internal emotional mechanisms, are we really putting them at a fair advantage to succeed academically?  I say all that to say this: In our school systems, there is a really missed opportunity in not having mandated social-emotional curriculum based classes, to help our students mediate and cope with personal struggles that hinder their academic performance. If we’re having conversations about equity and fairness as it pertains to students’ educations, why is social-emotional based learning not a part of that conversation?

You might be interested in …