Kids today still turn to their parents when they have something important to say, but increasingly, kids are looking to teachers to be role models and to provide guidance, according to this year’s Highlights State of the Kid™survey . Of the 2,000 kids polled, 25 percent said that they admire and respect their teachers because they are caring, loving, and kind. My own ten-year-old supports this finding because he told me about his teacher’s kindness on the first day, and subsequent days, of school.
This kind of feedback is a giant warm hug of gratitude to educators from U.S. children. It signifies that teachers realize the critical role of a caring relationship in learning. In fact, research backs up the idea that learning takes place—and brain connections are strengthened—when students feel connected to their teachers, fellow students, and the larger school community.
Kids’ perceptions of teachers as role models of kindness and caring point to a growing movement in education to focus on actively creating caring learning environments and promoting the whole child’s development—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Social and emotional learning in schools means actively working to create a safe, caring, and connected school community in which students feel a sense of trust and belonging and cultivate skills like self-awareness, empathy, and responsible decision-making.
And parents agree! In my own survey of parents, 95 percent said they felt social and emotional skill development was the most critical of all skills for their child’s success in school today and for their future lives. So how do we, as parents, work with our child’s educators on this critical issue? Here are a few simple ideas.
- Ask what your school does to promote relationships and social, emotional, and academic development. Approach your child’s teacher or the school’s parent-teacher association. (Here’s a tool to begin that conversation.)
- Learn more together as partners. Check out my site, Confident Parents, Confident Kids, to learn more about the power of social and emotional learning in schools.
- Get involved. Now more than ever, parents realize that involvement in their children’s education is key to their success. Ask in what ways you can give of your time. It doesn’t have to be volunteering in the classroom.
Show care and gratitude. It’s easy to get caught up in hearing the negative aspects of what’s going on at school. Instead, make a point of asking your child about the positives. What’s going well? What do you like about your teacher? Then, share your gratitude with the teacher. Let her know you notice. Complimentary words at pick-up time or a note from you can make a teacher’s week!
Jennifer Miller, M.Ed., has a master’s degree in education and twenty years of experience focused on children’s social and emotional learning. She is the author of the site Confident Parents, Confident Kids.