Gray Matters (May 2018)
Creating an Emotionally Safe School
Several years ago a small group of schools, committed to progressive philosophies of teaching and learning, came together to form Capital Area Progressive Schools (CAPS). All early childhood to eighth grade institutions, Burgundy Farm, Green Acres, Friends Community, Lowell, Sheridan, and of course Capitol Hill Day School, have a strong professional bond and commitment to collaboration.
On a recent Wednesday, we gathered as a full CAPS community for an afternoon of learning. Our guest was Dena Simmons, Director of Education at the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence. Ms. Simmons led us in an engaging session entitled: "Leveraging Emotional Intelligence and Culturally Responsive Practices for Thriving Students and Just Schools." During this interactive presentation, we discussed the essential belief that for students to thrive at school, they must feel safe to be who they are. We explored the five key skills of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions. We examined how our teaching and learning must foster psychological and emotional safety through emotional intelligence and culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy.
As part of her presentation, Simmons shared the quote, "There isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love once you've heard their story." Young children love to tell their story and are naturally empathetic to the stories of others. They are models of the vulnerability implied in the message of these words. As adults in their lives we have much to learn from their example.
To learn more and to hear Dena Simmons' story, I encourage you to watch her TedTalk.
Head of School