Teaching with the Heart in Mind

You may have been wondering why I haven’t been publishing lately. Well, there is a good reason—I am writing a book! I feel excited, scared and proud all at the same time! My new book, Teaching with the Heart in Mind, is a practical guide to nurturing Social Emotional Learning in the classroom. It will cover many of the topics and tools that I have discussed in this blog (emotions in learning, importance of relationships), and some new ones (how adversity affects learning, teachers’ resilience). Since I started working on the book, I have been thinking a lot about this quote from Brené Brown: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”  This book is my way to show up and share with you what I have learned from being a teacher, and from supporting educators and schools to implement SEL. My hope is that it will help you in your work with students, families and school communities.

After some time writing, I am now ready to start sharing some of the content with you. Every few weeks, I will share an excerpt from the book. If you want to receive these excerpts directly in your email, sign up for updates! Every chapter contains practical tools that you can implement in your classroom and personal life. Do you have specific tools or topics that you would like to find in the book? Please send me a message. I love receiving your thoughts and questions; I use your feedback to inform my writing and the tools that I bring to schools.

Now to the content! Here’s a snippet from chapter 1 – We feel, therefore we learn:

Many educators have had students that ask “why are we doing this?” when presented with new information, or others that say “are we doing this again?” Well, there is a scientific reason for these questions. The brain does not waste energy thinking about things that don’t matter to us. We only think deeply about things for which we care. This is the reason why learners pay attention and stay focused when the subjects or topics discussed in class are personally relevant to them.

Unfortunately, schools often resort to things like “This unit is going to be on the test” to draw students’ attention for the content discussed in class. Students may have no internal reason to engage with that information, but they do it nonetheless for other emotion-related reasons: fear. They may be afraid of failing that class, disappointing their families, or feeling ashamed. Immordino-Yang argues, however, that fear shifts your thought patterns and memory, putting students in a fight or flight response, which is not conducive to deep engagement with ideas or skill development. Students’ learning is impaired when they are fearful, traumatized, or overcome by challenging emotions.

On the other hand, curiosity is a much better emotion for meaningful learning. Curiosity fuels imagination and creativity. When students feel curious, they are open; they may feel intellectually playful and willing to explore new possibilities. Great innovators, such as Thomas Edison or Leonardo da Vinci, had curious minds. For educators focused on creating productive learning environments, this means that we need to find more effective tools to increase curiosity; we need more “emotional hooks” to induce emotions that support deeper learning in the classroom (you will find practical examples about emotional hooks in chapter 9).

Learn more about the book here.  I’ll be sharing another excerpt about the power of relationships soon. Stay tuned!



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