Today, the Greater Good Science Center is proud to announce the launch of Teaching and Learning for the Greater Good, an online course for educators that covers the science behind social-emotional learning (SEL) and explores how to weave it into our schools.
The timing of this course is extraordinary: It was created and is being launched during a very difficult period in the United States—and for the entire world. We’re in the midst of multiple crises that have dragged us down, and many of us are working harder than ever. At the same time, this period of crisis has revealed educational inequities as never before.
Teachers have enough to do. A lot of us are overwhelmed, isolated, exhausted, and demoralized. But out of this societal upheaval comes a great opportunity: to rethink and rebuild the way we want to live together in this world. How we educate our young people is crucial to that conversation.
For years, groups such as CASEL and the GGSC, along with numerous education professionals, have been promoting the importance of social and emotional well-being in schools, for both the students and the adults who work with them. Today, with the pandemic, students have not been able to connect as meaningfully with teachers and peers, which highlights what researchers and practitioners have known for years, if not centuries: that relationships are at the heart of education.
If we can use these powerful lessons to transform our schools, then we can take a giant leap forward in building a better world. Teaching and Learning for the Greater Good aims to be a step in that direction.
In the course, we don’t offer a prescription or a curriculum. Instead, it’s about transforming how we “do” education by focusing first and foremost on our human capacity for connection and what that looks like in education. This course offers educators the opportunity to take a moment and reflect on the extraordinary work we are already doing to build strong relationships with our students—and make it even more intentional. Finally, we are aiming to share ideas for how educators can deepen this work not just through practical methods, but also by strengthening relationships with colleagues and with ourselves.
If we, as educators, can learn to better understand ourselves and our own emotions, we won’t simply learn to survive a broken, inequitable system. We can learn to thrive and ultimately transform that system.
What will you learn in the course?
In the course, we explore our potential for kindness and connection as human beings and share strategies for creating a greater sense of trust, safety, and belonging in schools. We lead educators through a series of practices that help them to clarify their own sense of purpose while building emotional resilience. Finally, we draw on the science of empathy, compassion, and gratitude to bridge differences and foster greater student and community well-being.
In applying these lessons to the classroom, we draw directly on our new website called Greater Good in Education, which launched last year. It features over 200 concrete, research-informed practices that we’re freely sharing with educators across the globe. In other words, we’re not just presenting research and instructional principles in this course—we’re handing teachers and administrators ready-to-use practices at all developmental levels, including practices for adults.
In light of time constraints, teachers have the freedom to work at their own pace and connect with like-minded colleagues across the globe (as much or as little as they prefer). Each module begins with a poem and a practice to try, followed by video content interspersed with fun quizzes, reflection activities, and optional practices to share with students and staff, as well opportunities to talk with colleagues on discussion boards.
What will educators get from the work?
We hope that educators leave the course feeling more inspired on a personal level, and more supported on a practical level.
We also want them to leave with greater confidence in their knowledge of the science behind social-emotional learning and well-being. In other words, if administrators or parents want to know how or why SEL benefits schools, course participants will be able to tell them.
Most of all, we hope that participants feel empowered with more tools, strategies, and practices that they can immediately use with minimal extra effort. We know that teachers will want to make ongoing tweaks and adjustments to these lessons and practices so that they meet the particular needs of their students and colleagues. (And we provide simple, easy-to-use tools and prompts to assist in making practices more culturally responsive and trauma-sensitive.)
Conflicts across the globe loom large. We humans are quick to judge and misjudge, often resistant to listening, and even prone to aggression and violence. This is difficult stuff, yet empathy, compassion, and kindness are profoundly valuable qualities of being—guiding us as we learn to communicate more effectively with one another and navigate real conflicts and tensions in school and beyond school.
In light of all this, what we really hope educators will gain from this course is a sigh of relief, which might allow them to trust that part of themselves that says connection is the heart of education and that they know how to do this work already, because they have been doing it from the first moment they stepped into a classroom.
By making their connections with students, colleagues, and themselves more intentional and more positive, their impact on their students—and the state of the world—will be that much more powerful.