Emotional Academics

sad We don’t often hear a lot of discussion on how emotions play into academic success or defeat but the two go hand in hand. Children are just learning the ins and outs of how to appropriately deal with their feelings — how to self-regulate– but adults struggle with this too. For example, work productivity is directly affected by how motivated we are that day, and our motivation hinges on how good or bad we happen to feel. We’re all on a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the causal relationship between emotions, productivity, and its direct effect on our students academic success.

Here are some Social-Emotional Learning pieces that I consider when working with my students:

  • To Serve the Whole Student, We Must Acknowledge Our Students Emotions. Then we have to go one step further to teach them how to appropriately deal with their excitement, anger, frustration, happiness, or sadness.
  • Find an Age-Appropriate Tool to Help Your Students Learn to Identify their Feelings and Self-Regulate Accordingly. A Feelings Wheel or Thought Box are two great resources that I use all the time with my students and their families.
  • A Simple “How was your day?” often does the Trick.  This seemingly innocuous question opens the door to conversation about how they are feeling. Then, make their “Feelings Baseline” your baseline for the lesson.
  • Everybody is Entitled to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And that’s ok! Even the most together adult has a horrible day once in a while. Instead of dwelling on the terribleness of it all, we have to use that time to (1) acknowledge, (2) deal appropriately, (3) gain trust through empathy, and (4) reassess your expectations for that day’s lesson.

By working with both typical and atypical developing students, I’ve learned (and am still learning on a daily basis) how to adjust my expectations based on how my students deal with their emotions. Do they bottle it up inside until it blows? Do they cry at the drop of a hat? Do they know how to recognize and identify what they are feeling?

The goal, of course, is to find that sweet spot: the point where I’m teaching a student to self-regulate through independent study while also challenging them to increase their own expectations.

Academics are about more than just working towards an A. It’s how we teach our students to appropriately deal with the myriad of emotions that come with this challenge that is of most importance.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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