At present it has been proved that the environment within the classroom is key to reach a successful instruction. Even though the management of contents by the teacher is essential, there are other substantial factors that may be determinant for the learning process to be successfully executed.
What are the characteristics or qualities of a good teacher? Many studies on students’ learning and classroom environment have proved that the teacher who handles most contents in the best way is not necessarily the teacher who obtains better results from students. Today it has been described that an emotional teacher-student link must be generated in order to prepare the pupil and create a good predisposition to learn.
A study conducted by the Catholic University of Chile concluded that “in order to aspire to establish a good link with teachers, students demand acknowledgement and appreciation, they want to be “invited” to learn and to be attracted by teachers, as a way to give life to the teaching process, and also require an active search from the teacher to make them interested in the matter and in the actual class,” stated the psychologist in charge of the investigation Gonzalo Gallardo (www.uc.cl). In this regard, a work that seeks to enhance the social-emotional abilities of teachers becomes relevant when creating an environment that favors the development of these abilities in the students and consequently encourages learning.
There are two types of programs to encourage development of social-emotional abilities: those that deal with them at explicit and rational level and those that are implicitly approached, through the regulation by the adult of the student’s stress.
Santiago College deals with social-emotional abilities at explicit level by way of the Personal and Social Development Program (SDP) and has started an implicit work through the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Program. The methods involved propose that students begin to assume regulation strategies and social-emotional abilities in the relationship they establish with one another, as it is in this instance where they acquire such competences.
The general SEL objective has been presented in a first stage in seven workshop meetings for the purpose of encouraging an affective teacher-student link. To this end, behaviors and attitudes seeking to generate nourishing relationships between them were defined, namely: listen respectfully, have sense of humor, know each student and call him by his/her name; be close, detect academic, social and emotional needs, and offer support. “The idea is to work on the development of social-emotional abilities generally so that teachers can have better tools to regulate students, make them more emotionally comfortable; this way the cognitive learning process takes place,” stated the High School psychologist Leonor Peñafiel.
On the other hand, it has been proved that the first childhood is the crucial phase to start the exercise of social-emotional abilities. As stated by the Center for the Development of the Child of Harvard University (www.developingchild.harvard.edu), the work on emotions during the first years of life may even give shape to the brain structure of the child, by creating circuits capable of influencing his-her academic development, mental health and his-her interpersonal relationships for the rest of their lives. It is the period where more neuronal connections take place, so the child’s brain is much more predisposed to learn.
This is why since March 2015, the A.M.A.R-E program (Social Emotional Abilities Program for pre-school students at Universidad del Desarrollo) is being implemented with Infant School teachers (PK, K, 1st grade), the purpose of which is to train teachers about the development of competences that favor the social-emotional learning process in students.
Particularly, the idea is that teachers can have better tools to handle the different stress situations the children usually experiment daily. “It seeks to give them abilities that will let them train children adequately. This way, the children will be obtaining strategies that will let them regulate themselves in the future,” stated the pre-school psychologist of Santiago College, Carolina Carranza.
Finally, amongst other activities conducted this year in relation to the social-emotional development, the Mindfulness workshops given by the Nodo Aprendizaje Training Center was offered to all those school teachers who were interested in learning this subject. The purpose was to include the Mindfulness practice as a personal discipline that trains concentration and present- time experience and apply it in the classroom with students.