A recent Washington Post article about a high school doing
some really exciting, integrative peacework.
To view the entire article, go to
Educating More Than the Mind
Sitting in a small classroom at Arlington's Yorktown High School, Lauren
Jinks, 17, got her dose of mathematics along with a memorable lesson on
empathy. Her class solved the day's math questions by computing the
population losses caused by the murder of Jews and homosexuals during the
Down the hall, in U.S. history, Shadia Hafiz, 17, fiddled with her black
spiked bracelet while she listened to an anthropology lesson about body
rituals. It doubled as a parable about tolerating differences in cultures,
communities and, yes, high school cliques.
With lessons on office politics during French class, being communicative
during biology and kindness during physical education, Yorktown High
appears to be the first school in the region to fully integrate "social and
emotional intelligence" into virtually every aspect of school life.
Students on sports teams will get awards not only for being the best
player, but also for being the most compassionate. Students who are
disciplined for, say, smoking or getting into fights will fill out a
Student Reflection Form, on which they will craft sentences about what was
bothering them and the consequences of their actions.
"While academic learning is always very important, we want the students to
know that it's not just about good test scores," said Raymond J. Pasi,
principal of Yorktown, who began the project. "Many other skills are very
important to have success in life."
The program is aimed at boosting students' EQ--their emotional
intelligence, or how a person works with peers, deals with stress and anger
and, well, figures out how to ask a date to the prom without hurting
Just imagine going to high school and learning skills that would help a
person get along with sloppy college roommates, cope with that
high-pressure job, decipher those confusing parking rules. For educators,
the lessons are important and ring true on the front lines during the age
of overworked parents, and students who spend more time on the Internet
than talking about benevolence and patience at family meals.
It's also a welcome addition for some students in high school,
traditionally not the most warm and fuzzy of places. "I'm half Middle
Eastern, but I also listen to American industrial hard rock," Hafiz said.
"I want people to accept me, even though some people think I'm kind of
weird. I think these lessons are really good for us."
Nationally, about 20 percent of schools incorporate some aspect of social
and emotional intelligence into their lessons, said Maurice Elias, a
professor of psychology at Rutgers University and a member of the
Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning. In the Washington
area, Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington also started to use social
and emotional learning in lessons this year.
Elias's organization, which came together in response to Daniel Goleman's
1995 book, "Emotional Intelligence," posts guidelines on its Web site to
show teachers how to integrate emotional intelligence into their lesson plans.
Samples include using art and music to learn how to give constructive
criticism of another student's work, and using health class to teach
tolerance and caring for those with AIDS or cancer. Yorktown used those
lessons, but the teachers also made their own. In one Earth Science class,
for example, students are taught empathy and problem-solving by electing
students to a United Nations environmental committee charged with saving a
country's air, land and water.
In an English class, a lesson used Holden Caulfield, the anti-hero from
"The Catcher in the Rye" and usually the most grumpy character on any high
school reading list, to show decision-making skills, alienation and
Some critics say that schools should be focusing on core reading and math
skills and that emotions should be left to families. But most experts agree
that teaching a little tenderness can't hurt.
"The question is: How much time and how smoothly are they incorporating
this into their lessons?" said Doug Carnine, director of the National
Center to Improve the Tools of Educators at the University of Oregon. "It
might take a little bit of time away from academics, but in the end, it
could bring about constructive changes in how students behave in class."
At Yorktown, Pasi suggested the idea last year. After a vote, about 97
percent of the faculty approved. In addition to the lesson plans, teachers
launched a project to team incoming freshmen with juniors, so that students
could be guided through the web of high school life.
The program held a make-your-own sundae party in front of the school.
Partners met and mingled, and the juniors gave advice to the freshmen--an
infrequent occurrence in many high schools, where students often stick with
Pasi then worked with his staff on gathering a diverse group of students to
come up with ideas and a theme for the program. He knew that without
students' acceptance, the program would not work. The students, from
different grade levels and social circles, met over pizza several times.
Debates were lively. Some of the students, who describe themselves as
belonging to different crowds, spent hours talking about what social and
emotional intelligence means in a high school setting. Justin Green, 17,
the "resident cynic," said at first that he saw few positive aspects of the
program. But later he said that if it made "one person nicer, it would be
In the end, the students created goals. Then they made a bright red, yellow
and blue poster: "Respect for others, the community and yourself" or
"Yorktown ROCS." The posters are in every classroom and some hallways.
"Maybe if you push someone in the hallway, and you look up and see that
poster, it will make you think," said Liz Markey, 16. "I think a lot of us
are hopeful this will be accepted now."
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Last update: 11 Dec 2000