When we think of school we too often picture rows of students sitting quietly at their desks, listening to the teacher or reading a textbook. This familiar image of a quiet classroom and docile students is and should be increasingly outdated. The state’s new Common Core and Next Generation science standards require teachers to teach and students to learn in more dynamic ways. They raise the bar for subject-matter knowledge in English, math and science.
These standards also aim to ensure that students engage in deeper learning by focusing on what are sometimes called “the four C’s:” communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. These are skills that are essential for success in today’s job market that cannot be nurtured if students are sitting quietly in rows in the classroom.
California’s new Common Core standards and a growing body of research are driving increased interest in social-emotional learning as an essential component of student success. Without skills like the ability to manage stress, to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and to engage successfully in the small-group work required for deeper learning, students cannot be successful. And, unless educators work actively to help students develop these skills, schools will not be able to deliver on the broader set of Local Control Funding Formula priorities that the state has adopted, promoting positive and productive school climates.
This emerging focus on social-emotional learning in California’s education system is a welcome change. We’ve spent far too long focused on multiple-choice bubbles and number 2 pencils, and not enough time building the skills that matter most for successful adults. Skills like being able to control your emotions and reactions, getting along well with a variety of people, and being confident about learning are just a few of the skills that are actively pursued in schools that focus on social-emotional learning. They sound remarkably similar to the characteristics we would look for in a good worker, friend or neighbor.