Education Opinion

Finding Emo

By Nancy Flanagan — June 18, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Sometimes, the cure is worse than the symptoms.

Over at The Core Knowledge Blog, the chat is about schools actively discouraging exclusivity in friendships, in favor of let’s all get along. Nobody really needs a best friend, a report suggests--and pairing off can lead to cliques and bullying. Lots of interesting comments, but my favorite--and I sincerely hope it was made with tongue in cheek--came from tm willemse:

Having a basket of friends rather than one or two sounds more like an investment strategy to spread risk. Kids learn what we teach them.

Telling kids they can’t have best friends--Up against the wall! You two! Where are the others in your assigned group?--is ludicrous, of course. But--as a long-time middle school teacher, who’s had to deal with plenty of 7th grade girl angst and boy swagger, I have some sympathy (or perhaps empathy) for the general idea of developing tolerance and kindness in groups of children.

Discouraging dyadic friendships is probably counterproductive (and what about the kid who had no friends, and finally makes a connection?)--but aren’t business moguls always saying that their employees don’t know how to work together? Isn’t that another thing the schools are supposed to be doing poorly?

Here’s my question: What should we be doing in schools to discourage the kind of budding “leadership” that eventually causes executives to hoard power, refusing to play nice--to take their golf clubs and go home? Shouldn’t the opportunity to learn be equitable? And doesn’t that mean that the adults in charge need to pay attention to (forgive me) building learning communities?

The social and emotional aspects of learning (ideas that make traditionalists’ eyes roll) are real things. They’re necessary but insufficient in a good education, just as content expertise alone does not make a good teacher. We may wish that kids would come to school ready to immerse themselves in rich curricular content, but the reality is that students don’t learn much when they aren’t comfortable enough to take an intellectual risk.

Separating content and emotional security in the classroom is a false dichotomy. You don’t have to love the kids you’re teaching, but you do have to care about relationships--across the spectrum--to be an effective teacher.

I really like the language that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards uses, their first “core proposition” for excellent teaching: Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

Teachers must care deeply about their students’ well-being in the classroom. If you’re not committed to your students -all your students--and their learning, maybe you shouldn’t be taking responsibility for teaching them.

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP