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Teaching Social and Emotional Learning Through the Headlines

Election Teachable Moments: A Be a Nice Person Challenge  

Without a doubt, schools across our great country are taking advantage of "teachable moments" afforded by the 2016 presidential elections: U.S. History, casting your vote, civics, the Electoral College, state geography, and even mathematic percentages and graphing. Unfortunately, the 2016 presidential campaign has created ample teachable social and emotional learning moments as well. Lessons on character building or destroying, online behavior, body language, and fostering respect are all fair game.

Some teachers have even reported an increase in bullying in U.S. schools.

Is there a remedy to this election season's negativity that even our youngest students may recognize or imitate?  Perhaps we can all try a Be a Nice Person Challenge

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research group, wrote about research published in the Journal of Social Psychology that clearly shows that in everyday life the nice people, engaging in small daily acts of kindness, are happier. While kindness and niceness are not identical, he challenged readers to deliberately set out to be nice for a week.  His suggested strategy? Try imitating the nicest person you know – and see how it feels.

So this final week before the election, we challenge every student, teacher, parent, child and adult to simply Be a Nice Person. Will you feel kind or happy or different? Is it a hard thing to do? Whether you try this as a classroom, individual or family, click here to share your outcome with Connect with Kids!

SEL Connections:
The fundamentals of social and emotional learning work to foster skills to support individual decision-making and emotional health that can, in turn, build a more peaceful society. Consider these SEL connections to the 2016 election season: 

Self-Awareness: How do our body language and word choice impact communication with others? Why does our choice of words matter? 

Self-Management: What do you do and/or how do you react in the face of adversity?

Social Awareness: What impact can our online behavior and posts (on Twitter, for example) have on the way we are perceived by others?

Relationship Skills: What does the phrase "agree to disagree" mean to you? Can you oppose someone in a respectful way?

Responsible Decision-Making: How do our choices and behaviors impact others? Why is it important to consider those outcomes? 


CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies

•  Self-Awareness
•  Self-Management
•  Social Awareness
•  Relationship Skills
•  Responsible
•  Decision-Making

Our Role in Democracy  
In a recent speech to the National Press Club, U.S. Education Secretary John B. King stressed that one of the original goals for American public education was to help prepare students for their role in democracy – a challenge that includes teaching students about the importance of becoming active participants and problem-solvers on a wide range of issues.
But voting alone is not enough, he said. Teachers should prepare students to become more involved in communities, to volunteer, and to “think beyond our own needs and wants.
They need to be able to put themselves into others’ shoes, and to appreciate the different perspectives that have shaped our nation’s history,” he said.
What are some local political issues on the ballot? How will our votes make an impact? 
Not everyone in the world has the same rights as Americans do. What is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?

Why is it important to vote?


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