Friday, 13 November 2009

Emotional Literacy

Emotional literacy = awareness and appropriate management of your emotions (including difficult ones)

Emotional literacy did not exist as a term - let alone a concept - when I was a child and it is apparent that the SEAL curriculum (social and emotional aspects of learning - a curriculum funded by the government) in schools has taught a lot of teachers some basic tools of emotional literacy alongside the children. Those that have bought into it and don't say things like, 'isn't this all just too much navel gazing?' and 'kids just need to toughen up' that is. (Yes being hit, never listened to and having orders regularly shouted at me did wonders for my resilience).

The idea that emotions are emotions and you can't stop (and shouldn't stop) yourself from feeling them but that you do have a choice about how you behave in response to what you are feeling is a simple but extremely helpful concept! SEAL also helps children to identify different emotions and link them to their likely cause. I know adults that cannot do this!

Most of us were brought up on emotional repression (especially blokes) and public displays of emotion can still cause incredible discomfort. We were taught to 'be in control' of our emotions at all times. That actually meant we were meant to deny them. All that stifling, blocking and repression - no wonder it bursts out occasionally in highly inappropriate and out-of-control ways (added to the fact that boys are often conditioned to believe that anger is the only acceptable male emotion to display).

I am all for the SEAL curriculum. I think it's giving a lot of children and young people incredible self-awareness. When done properly (i.e. linked to the whole school ethos with all adults in school being role-models for what is taught etc) then SEAL can have a hugely benefical impact upon all the interactions in a school.

My favourite SEAL story was one a headteacher told. She had been using SEAL for a few years and said that the emotional literacy of the children attending her school far outstripped that of the children's parents/carers. She said she realised this was really the case when she witnessed a Year 2 (6 year old) pupil skip up to her mother - who was clearly angry about something - and say, 'mum I can see you're very angry, but can we sit down and talk about it?'

1 comment:

  1. Let's put Jim on an intensive fast-track SEAL programme! Or just chuck him in with the seals at London zoo. Or the lions.

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