Friday, October 26, 2012

Emotional Literacy

I am in the middle of reading a wonderful book called, 'Roots of Empathy: Changing the world child by child' by Mary Gordon(2009).  The title of this book really caught my attention as the idea of changing the world one child at a time is something that I feel teachers have the ability to do.
I had intended on reading right through the book and then putting some feedback on the blog but I have just read the chapter on emotional literacy and thought no I just cannot wait I want to share some of this book now.   So here it is, I know that we all know this but there is no harm in a little re-visiting what we know and also maybe provoking some extra thought about emotional literacy.
"The illiterate of the next generation will not be those who don't know how to read, they will be those who don't know how to relate."  Being able to relate starts from birth it is those warm caring looks from the family and caregivers that invite responsive reciprocal relationships.  I was at a centre yesterday talking with an unqualified centre owner, who I am sure would not mind me telling the story.  We had been in the children's room and were discussing exer-saucers, bouncers, jolly jumper and highchairs and there place in ECE.  Later we were standing in the office and she said to me, "sometimes children feel safer though when they are up high and out of harms ways, it is just like being in their mothers arms - up high and safe."  I said nothing and just waited.  "Oh", she said, "they (the babies) should be in a teacher's arms shouldn't they because it is about relationships."  Her light bulb moment made my day as I thought of the wonderful outcomes for children as her thinking developed through the conversations  we have.  She did say to me that she is like a sponge that is absorbing all the information.
"When we deny children the right to their feelings, such as when we repeatedly tell a child "there's nothing to be sad about" instead of acknowledging the sadness, she will stop sharing her feelings.  The feelings will go underground, communication is thwarted, and the child's ability to seek out solutions to the problems that led to her fear is blocked.  It is like living in an oppressive environment where you can't speak the language or aren't allowed to practice your religion."
Imagine the feeling of not being able to speak the language particularly if the adults around you are able to use the emotional language they know - acknowledging feelings of having a bad day, being sad or frustrated.  This chapter in the book reminds me of the importance of the non-verbal communication for our younger children particularly as "emotion is an infant's first language".    The book talks about the importance of the ongoing use of nonverbal communication that children uses even after language acquisition.  These cues become an integral part of their communication system.
Finally, my last quote from this chapter, "Emotional literacy gives us the tools to take these innermost feelings and beliefs and give them voice."  This makes me consider how am I allowing children to share their feelings, is there the time and pace in my day to stop and deeply listen with my ears, eyes and heart to what it is that children are saying?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lynn your question "are you allowing children to share their feelings" made me stop and revisit my daily practice. It saddens me to think i may have missed interactions because of my practice. Chuckles, smiles, coos pr those wee arms that stretch out to you .... you have been chosen by this child to communicate and share a moment with ... how glorious is that :) Reflecting on ones practice is a valuable tool. Marie V.