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Q&A: Foundation of Student Empowerment

Lori Jackson & Steve Peck present at the Transformative Leadership Summit

TLS Logo 2Educators Lori Jackson and Steve Peck, co-founders of The Connections Model, will join more than 40 leading presenters in the third annual Transformative Leadership Summit, which will take place online from July 30 to August 7, and focus on empowerment for administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Educators can attend each day’s online sessions free of charge and can also purchase an all-access pass to get exclusive bonuses and archived content. Visit TransformativeLeadershipSummit.com to register.

Q: In the Transformative Leadership Summit, you are presenting on the topic of Student Empowerment. From your experience as educators, how would you describe a student who is truly “empowered” — what are the factors you’d hope to observe — and what is your advice for educators who are looking to take the first step toward empowering their learners?

Lori Jackson and Steve Peck: Students who are truly empowered to take control of and can manage their own learning. They are the students who can communicate their needs and goals. They are determined in the face of challenges and can regroup when situations don’t go their way.

Emotional regulation is the foundation from which resilience and empowerment develop. Mastery of these skills leads to confidence and the ability to have goal-directed and purposeful behavior. Our advice to educators: stick to the basics. Work on the foundational skills that build emotional intelligence and you’ll build students who have a love of learning.

Q: Your app, KidConnect, teaches kids to identify, understand, and manage their emotions and behaviors so they are ready to engage in academic and social-emotional learning — Ready2Learn, as you put it. What, in your estimation, is the relationship between student empowerment and emotional regulation?

Lori and Steve: We believe quite literally that emotional regulation skills are what form the foundation of empowerment for students. When you feel empowered, you have a strong sense of self and in your abilities. In order to have these traits, you need to have the skills that allow you to identify how you feel, why you feel it, and how to direct or manage those feelings into goal-directed behavior. For some kids, the skills that lead to emotional regulation don’t come easily and need to be explicitly taught.  If we teach kids to identify, understand and manage their emotions we teach kids the core skills that will drive a lifetime of learning and success.

Q: SEL is gaining traction as an important area for schools to address — no longer a “nice to have,” but something that schools must tackle with intentionality. What are the “must-have” elements at the foundation of SEL and how can administrators, teachers, and parents work together to ensure they are present for all students?

Lori and Steve: There are so many, but here are our top three.

The first MUST HAVE: A program that works for everyone. Many schools sour on SEL programs because they don’t reach the kids that schools are REALLY trying to reach! If the SEL program isn’t designed with a range of kids from high-achieving to a special needs population, it won’t really address the behaviors and issues that the SEL program is being introduced to solve. So one size needs to fit all.

Second MUST: A program that starts with the basics. SEL is more than just making friends and learning to work with others. Most importantly, it’s learning to understand yourself! This means we need to explicitly teach the underlying skills that kids need to understand themselves, so they interact successfully in learning and in life.

Our THIRD MUST: Support for teachers is critical. If they aren’t learning, neither are their students. A program must train and support teachers throughout the SEL journey. What is the philosophy behind the program? Maybe most importantly, how does the SEL program support teachers when it’s challenging or isn’t feeling successful.

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