Saturday, March 11, 2023

I give you Permission to Feel

If you ask any high school graduate what they learned about emotion from grades kindergarten to 12th grade, they most likely will shrug, have a blank stare or look at you like you're crazy.

A gaping hole keeps expanding in our education system with how students, and adults, understand and deal with their emotions. So we continually turn out emotionally stunted, academically compliant students on the path to lives that could be much more enriching and emotionally meaningful.

In a professional development one day, I saw the Mood Meter (below) and, soon after, showed it to my students. They responded to it and seemed to learn and label their emotions. I would ask them to do a self-assessment for how their energy level is on a scale of 1 to 10 and how pleasant they feel on a scale 1 to 10.

I discovered that Marc Brackett created the Mood Meter and wrote Permission to Feel: The Power of Emotional Intelligence to Achieve Well-Being and Success (2019) to explore emotions and promote emotional development and education with teachers.

I am 100 percent sold on Brackett's message, and I agree with him that training teachers in SEL (social emotional learning) is more difficult than it should be. Many administrators and teachers have so many responsibilities that promoting SEL often sounds like another added responsibility to them. However, I feel it's the opposite. SEL sets up the teacher, and student, for authentic connection that deepens the classroom experience for both.

Permission to Feel focuses a lot on RULER, which is a mnemonic for recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating emotion. I love this! The Mood Meter comes into play with labeling, and I found the chapter on regulating emotion, in particular, was helpful. RULER is my favorite guide I've run across with how to deal with emotions.

Brackett offers five strategies for emotional regulation, and my favorite is cognitive reframing — shifting our perception. Mindful breathing, forward looking, attention shifting and taking a moment, a Meta-Moment is what he calls it, all are helpful strategies.

I think it can be hard for teachers and educators to separate fads that will come and go and strategies that will have staying power. SEL is no fad. Hopefully, our classrooms have been engaging in SEL before we called it that.

Honestly, the labels might be new, but I don't think the approach is if you ever encountered a totally with-it, connected teacher (or maybe that's a unicorn for you). The term "emotional intelligence" was not coined until 1990, so it makes sense that some of our terms are new nowadays.

Permission to Feel affected me so strongly that it may be the No. 1 teaching book I'd recommend to all teachers. Some of my other favorites are bit more intellectual, but to me, this one is for everyone. I took away so much from it that I feel obliged to give a few more highlights.

I had never heard of emotional granularity before this book. That is putting feelings into words with a high degree of complexity. Often times, even adults are stuck in "happy, mad, sad" to explain their complicated feelings. Our feelings go beyond those rudimentary words. Right?

Attribution bias also stuck with me. That is assuming others feel how you do. Guess what? They don't. If someone says, "I hate this place. Everyone is so depressed," that likely means oh, OK, that person is depressed.

In a 2014 Gallup poll Brackett cites, teachers and nurses tied with the most stressful jobs on a daily basis, so that group truly must know how to deal with that stress and their emotions. They need to be emotion scientists as opposed to emotion judges.

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