Program for educators teaches social and emotional learning

By Catherine Robertson Souter
October 6th, 2020
Marc Bracket, Ph.D, director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
Marc Bracket, Ph.D, director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

The state of Connecticut is looking to take the lead on creating an emotionally strong educational system. The Department of Education has joined forces with stakeholders across the state to pilot a unique program aimed at giving educators the tools they need to cope and to teach coping skills during the pandemic.

The program, “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress: Research-Based Strategies,” is a 10-hour online program for educators that will give instruction in social and emotional learning (SEL).

“The course is 10 hours of training in the psychology and neurobiology of trauma and stress resilience,” said Marc Bracket, Ph.D, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

“This moves from the psychology of being more self-aware to the psychology of being more socially aware to strategies to help teachers better support students on regulating their stress and anxiety. Throughout the entire course, there is a thread of being culturally responsive and making sure that we are addressing equity issues in our schools.”

Designed to help educators with their own mental health so that they can both model and teach healthy methods for dealing with the current stress and uncertainty, the program kicked off in mid-August and has already had more than 15,000 participants register.

A stressed-out teacher is a stressed-out classroom" --Marc Bracket, Ph.D, director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

“A stressed-out teacher is a stressed-out classroom,” said Bracket. “A teacher who is stressed out…can create a contagion of stress in the classroom.”

The program, which came from work that the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence was already doing in the state. It was created with input and support from groups across the spectrum of education including the teachers’ union, superintendent’s union, and the Dalio Education Foundation.

“Over the last five or so years, we have gotten every stakeholder who cares about kids to come on our bus,” said Bracket. “Literally everyone is rooting for this.”

Barbara Dalio, who heads Dalio Education, a branch of Dalio Philanthropies, was impressed with the work that the Yale group had already done in the state and signed on to provide grant money for the teacher education program.

“It has been very stressful for teachers,” she said. “At the beginning when COVID started, they had to teach online from home, not something they have ever done. And, it is not over yet. They know more and have new types of stress being back in school with the kids. So this will be a tool. I have heard Marc say many times that you don’t get rid of the stressors but if you learn to deal with them you can manage. This is a godsend to be able to have this and to have Marc be able to put this together.”

Since the program was first announced in Connecticut, there has been interest from states and school systems across the country. So much so, that Bracket is looking to roll it out on much broader scale once the first group has completed the 10-hour program in mid-October.

“We looking for ways to make it available across the United States,” he said. “There has been so much demand for this. We don’t really have a choice.”

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