Keeping all of these emotions shut up inside would obviously affect their emotional and mental health now and in the future. (K204, Topic 3, pg 30) A child who has been taught to talk about his/her problems becomes resilient. They know how to express their emotions and deal with the problem. Rather than finding all of the negative points they tend to look for a ‘silver lining’ and deal with this in a way that solves the problem. They manage to grow up to be happy, healthy and ‘together’. Just like ‘traditional’ forms of literacy, emotional literacy starts with simple learning of concepts and skills.
Teaching children how to listen to others, how to empathise (recognise and understand other people’s feelings) and also how to recognise and listen to their own is a key factor in the ‘teaching’ of emotional literacy. Children who are emotionally competent have an increased desire to learn and to achieve, both within school and without. They are likely to be passionate and curious, self-confident and stable. In the London Borough of Enfield, primary schools have started up ‘nurture groups’ for any children showing signs of emotional and behavioural problems.
Nurture groups are special classes and provide a structured and predictable environment. These groups encourage the children to trust adults and to learn. The staff in the nurture groups have backup from the LEA’s advisory staff and parents are regularly involved in informal sessions and discussions about their child’s progress. (K204, Topic 9, pg 16) As you can see from this example there is a wide network of support for the pupil/child. They have back up from their teachers who also speak and consult with their parents, but on a wider scale the school has back up from the Local Education Authority.
Highfield Junior School in Plymouth is a school that has introduced a new code of discipline to promote positive behaviour. Circle time was introduced to try and build up group rapport, identify as a class, the needs and strengths of all members, offer solutions and support to an individual when they have a problem such as bullying and to try and solve any disputes through group discussions. Some parents tend to think that valuing and promoting emotional literacy is a ‘soft option’. They feel that the values behind the teaching might be more lenient in the way bullies are dealt with.
I feel that when you look at the reasons behind bullying you tend to find it is because the children concerned cannot express their emotions. They find the easiest way to deal with things is to hit out. Basically the bully is emotionally illiterate. I would like to examine for this essay a project that has taken place at the local school where I am employed. We had a problem with bullying in our older classes and worked with 4 Year 6 pupils who had a history of quarrelling and victimizing other pupils.
Our main aims were to help the pupils deal with their feelings, take into consideration the feelings of other people, develop their emotional literacy and learn new ways of behaving and managing their emotions. The children were managed by a senior teacher who had over 20 years experience. She was managed by the school SEN co-ordinator and also the head teacher. It is very hard for a pupil, who is not emotionally literate to express how they feel so puppets were used for role play, movement and dance were used for enabling them to access feelings in a less threatening way than through talking.
Art was also used and the pupils were asked to paint or draw how they were feeling. Relaxation techniques were also introduced at the end of each session teaching the children ways of letting off steam rather than hitting out or shouting. Results were not expected immediately but as it was some of the children appeared to be happier and more relaxed fairly quickly. We know, as a school that the project needs to be ongoing. These children and many others after them will need support over a period of time.
Although schools have an important role to play in the development of emotional literacy, the home is the most important source of training for children. Children who come from homes where emotional literacy is promoted tend to tolerate frustration better, get into fewer fights, and have greater academic achievement. Ways of introducing emotional literacy into the family would be giving people in the family choices, letting them be heard and using everyone’s strengths (even if they are the youngest member of the family).