No one has ever claimed raising a child is easy, but my toddlers have really put me through the ringer recently — enough that my husband and I have begun to doubt our parenting skills. That line from the movie Zoolander, when Will Ferrell’s character says, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! I say that line every day. What are we doing wrong? Why are they so temperamental? Why aren’t they listening?
As a high school teacher, I feel the same about about my students. Why do I often struggle with their behavior? I often find myself exasperatedly saying, Kids just aren’t the same these days. Why is there so much apathy? Why don’t they care as much as I do?
Although it harbors much of it, I believe technology cannot carry all the onus for the changes in the behaviors of young people — but it should foster some of it. In this digital age, many students are missing the development of non-technical skills, which are social-emotional skills. And it is our job as educators to make sure our students are well-rounded individuals, filled with the knowledge to become the people we know they can be.
We often blame millennials — and most of us over thirty use that term in jest. The millennial generation takes on the culpability for all the behaviors our parents would have never condoned. But it's not their fault. In 2017, Forbes published an article about some of the non-technical skills applicants and new hires are lacking: attention span, curiosity, commitment to learning more, agility, and humility. This translates to grit, growth mindset, and compassion. Still, how can we develop these skills with our current students, when we generally missed the mark with the millennial generation?
Technology is never going away, and I do not believe the answer is to omit it. However, we need to find a way to blend and balance technology with social-emotional learning. If we do a little bit every day, consistently, and with purpose, big changes can be made to our culture.
Prioritizing Social-Emotional Learning
Thus, how do we build a bridge between technology software, and the software that is our own well-being? First, we must all change our mindset. School districts need to prioritize social-emotional learning in conjunction with educational concepts. Teachers need to be provided resources to help build a culture of growth, acceptance, and a sense of belonging. People who do not feel as if they belong will not perform well.
School districts need to prioritize social-emotional learning in conjunction with educational concepts.
In the book, The Good News About Bad Behavior, author Katherine Lewis points out the vast amounts of connections between allowing our children to have free time for imaginative play without constant parental interference, and the development of social connection, self-regulation, and building empathy. Allowing children to work through negotiations with their peers helps them learn to control their emotions, develop better executive function skills, and become healthier adults.
Educators can use this idea in the classroom and combine it with technology. We need to help our students learn how to struggle. James Nottingham’s Guide The Learning Pit does just that. “The key to the Learning Challenge is to get students ‘into the pit’ by creating cognitive conflict in their minds. It is the frequent experience of cognitive conflict that helps to build a growth mindset.” Technology can be leveraged to create these types of situations for our students.
WOOP, There It Is!
Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan aka WOOP is an easily relatable acronym for students of all ages which helps not only set goals, but also solve potential problems that may arise. Goal setting is an important tool for social-emotional learning development, and helping kids actually reach a goal is very powerful. Students increase their grit, resilience, and hope when they reach an appropriately challenging goal. Reaching a goal also helps students reinforce their growth mindset and realize they can do something now, that they may not have been able to do before.
Goal setting is an important tool for social-emotional learning development, and helping kids actually reach a goal is very powerful.
In the classroom, students and teachers can use technology to help with the goal setting process, keep records of obstacles, brainstorm a range of solutions, and test out their process until they find success.
We do not have to get rid of technology to teach the soft skills that seem to be lacking in our students — rather we need to use it as a tool to supplement critical thinking. When we take these tiny steps, every day, with a purpose, great change is possible.
Written by Maria Stead, co-authored by Molly Walker, from the Hilliard City District in Ohio.