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More than a Feeling: Overlooked Drivers of Achievement

Social Emotional Learning Friday, 15 Dec 2023

Columbia University’s Teacher College shared some emergent research at its Reimagining Education Summer Institute this year that points to overlooked drivers of academic growth and achievement for students of all ages. The new findings align nicely with North Park Elementary School’s approach. 


Central to these findings is that good teaching takes place most often when teachers are cared for, honored, celebrated, challenged, and supported by administrators and families. Impactful, lasting teaching also requires teachers and administrators to put meeting the visible needs of individual students first in the most flexible, inclusive, and equitable manner possible, rather than prioritizing the more fixed demands of those not as well-positioned to size up individual and collective needs in context, whether they be district offices, elected officials, mass media, or even parents.


This same emergent research recognizes that schools as human development organizations have always been places of continual trauma and recovery (usually but not exclusively mild to moderate traumas as children grow up). But while unaddressed post-traumatic stress poses real challenges to the well-being and growth of individuals and communities, there is also much to be gained from recognizing and supporting the equally real opportunities for post-traumatic growth.  

We now know that there is almost nothing more important to academic achievement than how a teacher feels when they’re teaching and how a child feels when they’re learning. This and brain science is why social-emotional learning (i.e., self-care, independent advocacy skills, healthy boundary setting, conflict resolution strategies, coping skills), transparency, trust, morale, and inclusion and belonging work are not alternatives to academic programming but are the very foundation of meaningful and lasting intellectual development for everyone.

If interested, you can also check out this four-minute video about what I learned at Teachers' College last summer.