Friday, August 22, 2008

Coping skills and empathy

The recent shooting in a Knoxville, Tennessee high school is another reminder that many of our young people are deeply struggling in their adolescence. While this shooting is being classified as an isolated incident against one individual and not as a "school shooting" targeting an entire school, I believe that our school professionals need to evaluate their non-academic curriculums in order to better address the social and emotional needs of our students. 
Before I go any further, I understand that our school professionals are stretched and exhausted. The job of a teacher or principal or school counselor is taxing. While working with youth is arguably the most rewarding work, it can leave the school professional needing extensive social and emotional support. But that does not mean that we should continue doing what we are doing just because that is what has been done before. 
According to the American School Counselor Association, it is the role of a school counselor to "help all students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development and career development, ensuring today's students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow." An overwhelming task , yes, but a competent school counselor is surely capable.
For starters, I suggest that schools incorporate empathy education into their curriculum if they are not already doing so. In fact, I think that it is necessary that students receive ongoing training in empathy. The ability to understand another's emotions allows young people to stop and think, "how would I feel if that were happening to me?" 
I recognize that this is a difficult undertaking. With the pressure for schools to excel on standardized test scores, teachers are reluctant to set aside classroom time for non-academic lessons. But we absolutely cannot afford to have our young people killing each other because they do not know how to handle conflict. Which brings me to another suggestion. I also believe that our youth need to learn better coping skills. Again, if we can help our children to appropriately resolve their social and emotional issues, we can guarantee safer and more nurturing educational environments.
If you are a school professional or your child is school-age, I encourage you to find out what the school is doing to teach empathy and coping skills. If you are not satisfied with the response, I urge you to challenge the appropriate school personnel to take another look at these important lessons. It just might save a child's life.

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

They also need to implement these things in the juvenile justice system. There are too many repeat offenders. It all goes hand in hand.