The Heart of Education: Social Emotional Learning - SE3EP5 - Dr. Lorea Martinez Perez
In this episode, we have Dr. Lorea Martínez Pérez joining us. An award-winning advocate for Social Emotional Learning, Dr. Martínez is the founder of HEART in Mind, where she has worked tirelessly to help schools, districts, and organizations infuse SEL into their practices. Her extensive background includes training teachers, leadership teams, and guiding ed-tech companies in integrating SEL into their products. An esteemed faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College, Dr. Martínez's contributions to Emotional Intelligence and SEL are well recognized, and her research has made a significant impact. She is the author of the book, "Teaching with the HEART in Mind," where she shares valuable insights on creating a supportive school environment, a 3-step process for lesson planning, and over 90 activities for SEL implementation. We are thrilled to have her on the show to share her wisdom on the integration of social and emotional learning in teaching practices, leadership, and parenting. Her insights will surely illuminate new pathways for us as we strive to navigate this ever-evolving digital age. https://loreamartinez.com/book/ https://www.6seconds.org/2022/03/13/plutchik-wheel-emotions/ This Episode is brought to you by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au
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Speaker 1 (00:08): Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Jamie: Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, the podcast that explores the unique challenges and opportunities of raising kids in today's tech-driven world. In each episode, we dive into insightful conversations with experts and thought leaders to provide practical guidance for navigating the digital landscape and life as parents. Today we are excited to have Dr. Lorea Martinez-Perez join us, an award-winning advocate for social emotional learning. where she's worked tirelessly to help schools, districts and organisations infuse SEL into their practices. Her extensive background includes training teachers, leadership teams and guiding ed tech companies into integrating social and emotional learning into their products. As an esteemed faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College Lorea's contributions to emotional intelligence and SEL are well recognised and her research has made a significant impact. She's also the author of the book, Teaching with the Heart in Mind. where she shares valuable insights on creating a supportive school environment, a three-step process for lesson planning and over 90 activities for social and emotional learning implementation. So we're thrilled to have her on the show today to share her wisdom on the integration of social and emotional learning in teaching practices, leadership and parenting. Loraea, that's quite an introduction. I'll take a breath. Thanks for joining us. Please just share in your own words what you do and what you are passionate about. Lorea Martinez: Yes, absolutely. Uh, it's a joy to be here. I would say that in, in just a few words, what I do is how people understand the importance of emotions of being able to name your emotions, to identify them. And to see them as data as information that your body is producing in order to support you in making better decisions. And I do that in different contexts with different people, but at the core, that's the main teaching that I'm trying to share with others. Jamie: Thank you. And for those who don't know, like many of our listeners, being parents may not know the concept of social and emotional learning. So can you just give us a brief introduction of what that is and why it's essential in today's educational landscape? Lorea Martinez: Yes, so social-emotional learning is a process to learn and practice essential social and emotional skills. And these skills go from, as I mentioned, being able to name your emotions, to be able to identify the emotions of others, what we call empathy, being able to understand that people may have different perspectives and opinions about... different subjects, helping kids and adults to solve conflicts, to have better relationships. And it also has to do with having a sense of purpose in your life, having something that you are working towards. Jamie: Yeah, I was just talking about purpose last night with my wife and you know, the whole meaning of happiness and largely it's a state of mind and a view. But looking in my pre-show research and looking at your website, you've got a book and you talk about this heart-in-mind model that you established. So can you just share with our listeners what the heart-in-mind model is and maybe what inspired you to create it? Lorea Martinez: Yes, so I'll start with your second question and then I'll talk about the model. So the reason why I wrote the book is because after I started my career as a special education teacher, so I spent several years working with neurodiverse students, helping them to be the best students, the best people they could be. And after doing that... I dedicated a lot of my work to social-emotional learning after finishing my doctoral dissertation. And what I realized supporting schools and teachers with that process is that there were many misconceptions about what social-emotional learning is. And one of them is that there's this false dichotomy between do we teach academics or do we teach social-emotional learning? And sometimes educators and parents as well, they say, well, we need to teach math, science. reading and writing, right? All the traditional subjects, which is something very important. And that doesn't, the fact that we want to teach social-emotional learning doesn't take away time for academics, what it does actually is to really help educators to become more effective because social-emotional learning is based on the research that has been done around effective neuroscience. and the important role that emotions play in learning. So what we are trying to do, what I'm trying to do is help educators understand that research so they can have better teaching practices in their classrooms to help parents understand how important it is for kids to have that awareness of their emotions, how important it is to have tools to manage your emotions in constructive ways. And that helps us to become better learners because we know that if our brains are stressed, for example, or if we are preoccupied with something that happened, our ability to focus, to pay attention, to remember information is gonna be diminished. So what we are doing is really trying to help kids and adults to develop the tools that they need in order to be better learners. So going back to your initial question in the book, I develop a framework and it's called the heart and mind model because I wanted teachers to have something that was research-based, but at the same time, that was easy to implement. And HEART is an acronym that defines and identifies five essential social-emotional skills. So I'll give you a quick overview. So the H. stands for honor your emotions. And that means naming, interpreting, and knowing why you feel what you feel. The E stands for elect your responses. And that has to do with all your self-management skills. So being able to create that pause between stimulus and response, which is super needed for our children. The A stands for apply empathy, being able to... know and understand the emotions of others. And in my model, apply empathy also includes empathy for self. And that's an area where I know a lot of parents and educators, we struggle with that part of it, because we have such high expectations for our students and our own children, we want them to do so well in the world. And when we are, we... perceive that we are falling short, we are not supporting them in the ways we want. We tend to be very harsh with ourselves. So I think the part of this work, as we are trying to teach these skills to kids, is being able to apply that compassion towards ourselves as we are, as adults, learning how to do this. The R stands for reignite your relationship. So being able to maintain positive relationships in your life. And finally, the T stands for transform with purpose. And that's really the skill that puts everything into perspective, into context, because I wholeheartedly believe that we can teach kids from a very young age to nurture a sense of purpose in their life so they have, they know why they're doing the things that they do. And to have that. that voice recognized that they can be positive contributors in their communities, they can be change makers and make their local and their global communities a better place. Jamie: That's powerful. And often as adults, we have this, you know, conscious realization or this understanding or this pursuit of purpose. But we forget that our kids can have a purpose to write. It's really interesting. So, okay, can you share an example perhaps of how to apply the heart model? So as a parent, I've got four kids. How could I possibly apply the heart model maybe at home to foster emotional intelligence in my own kids? Lorea Martinez: Yes, so I would say that it's almost like a cycle, right, that you go through. And sometimes you might need to start asking yourself the question, what is my purpose? What do I want in this situation? And I have two young children myself, I have two daughters. And I know that when I get into a conflict with them, sometimes I'm so into the argument. or the proving that I'm right, that I forget, what is important here? Is it really important that I win the argument, that I show that I'm right? Or maybe there's something else that is more important. Maybe I wanna keep the relationship or there's a lesson that I wanna teach that I'm forgetting because I'm so caught up in the heat of the moment. So I think that what these hard skills do as parents is they allow us to use these tools that we have and to almost take a step back into our daily situations and be able to ask ourselves, well, is this really important? And then going to the beginning of the model to notice ourselves, what am I feeling in this situation? What are the emotions that are coming up for me when my child has made a very poor choice or maybe they lied to me and I'm very upset about it, right? Like really noticing what are the emotions, the things that come up so I can make a better choice. And another one of the misconceptions that sometimes we have with the work of social emotional learning is that is the work for the kids. and not so much for the adults. And my experience has been supporting schools and educators and parents that the work starts with us. Jamie: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. A lot of senses indeed. So how does then social-emotional learning correlate with say traditional academic success? Lorea Martinez: Yes, so all the research that has been done looking at effective implementation of social-emotional learning programs, it shows that when schools are implementing these practices effectively, academic improvement, academic achievement improves. Because I mean, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Now we have the research that proves it. But we need. tools to manage our emotions in order to pay attention, to make decisions, to even remember concepts or to learn new skills. In all of those aspects, we need emotions. And actually the effective neuroscience has shown that we cannot have thoughts without feelings and vice versa. So this idea that our cognitive processing goes... on one side of our brain and our emotional processing is a different system that is now obsolete. Today we know that cognitive and emotional processing, they are two interdependent processes in our brains and that means that in order to learn better, we need to normalize thinking and being able to name and noticing our emotions because they are really part of everything that we do. regular basis. Jamie: Okay, very interesting. And in your book, you've, you suggest around 90 different activities to implement, you know, for parents or for teachers to implement in their environment. How can, maybe you can share one or two of those and how parents might be able to use them at home or how as Lorea Martinez: Yes. Jamie: an educator, I could use them in a classroom. Lorea Martinez: Absolutely. One of, I think for me as a researcher and as a scholar of this work, one of the lessons that I learned very early that was eye-opening for me was the fact that emotions are not good or bad. So traditionally we have been raised, at least has been my experience, that emotions like anger, frustration, disappointment, they are negative. So our tendency is to move away from them. And one of the things that we are trying to teach through social-emotional learning is that there are no good or bad emotions. They are just, sometimes they are really big, sometimes they are small, sometimes they are uncomfortable or comfortable, more pleasant, but they all provide valuable data about... what's happening internally and how we respond to different environments. So for parents, I am guilty of this sometimes to have told my kids, oh, don't be sad, don't cry, it's not a big deal, you'll get over it, right? And I think that a much better approach to help our kids with their emotions is to say, wow, yes, I see that you are really upset. or I can understand that this situation is so frustrating, I would be frustrated too, to really validate their emotional experience, even if your reaction to that situation wouldn't be the same. You don't need to agree with your child, especially if you have teenagers, right? About how, what's the level of their emotions, but really thinking about that validation. Because that's the... the place where awareness starts, being able to see clearly what is that I'm feeling. And then the second part is to interpret what is this emotion trying to tell me, to see that there is a meaning behind each one of those emotions. And they are, sometimes it's a red flag, they are trying to call our attention because we need to pay attention to what's happening. So I think that piece around validating our kids' emotions is It's almost like at the foundation of building healthy, to raise healthy adults. Jamie: Yeah. And so it's. As a parent, I should stop saying things like, get over it or, you know, don't, you shouldn't feel that way or whatever. It's almost naming it to tame it. Name it to tame it is an expression we use, you know, just calling that emotion out. And the example you gave there was, you called the emotion out, then you used empathy. You know, Lorea Martinez: right? Jamie: like I totally understand why you would feel that way. And that's a simple tool that parents can use. It's a simple tool that I can probably use more deliberately and consciously in my own family. So thank you for sharing. that. Lorea Martinez: Yeah. Jamie: Can you explain how maybe the heart in mind model promotes both self-awareness and relationship building? Lorea Martinez: Yes, so the connection has to do with what is the dialogue that we establish with people around us. And when we have many adults in our society that walk around with a lot of lack of self-awareness and that means that... they might not see the impact of their actions, the way they talk to other people, and how their presence may impact the different environments, the different contexts where they move. So when we have that solid foundation of self-awareness and self-management, that means that we can clearly see not only identify our feelings and our thought patterns, how we make decisions, but we are a lot more aware about what's the impact of our actions, because we kind of have trained ourselves to see ourselves more clearly, and that means that we can have more tools to see what is that impact towards others. And one of the essential... skills as you were mentioning is empathy when we are trying to connect with others and it is hard to understand how others are feeling if you don't know that for yourself. There is a part of empathy that really means feeling the feelings of others within yourself. So if you are not open to that process, maybe that's a place where you don't want to go. within yourself, it might be hard for you to connect more deeply with others because you are not able to establish that connection at an emotional level. So in the work of relationships, when you have that self-awareness, that self-management, you can see yourself more clearly and you have the tools in order to relate with others. because you understand that they also have emotions, they also have patterns, they have things going on their own side, and you can meet at a, you know, as a central location where you can establish a good relationship. Jamie: So apart from, I guess, stopping to ask myself, what emotion am I feeling right now? What are other ways that we can, as humans, recognise and learn and get more in touch with our emotions? Lorea Martinez: Yeah, so one big one is emotional literacy. So in the English language, there are 3000 words to describe emotions. And I would say that the average person may know 25, 30 words, right? So a big part of this process is to help yourself to use a wider range of emotion words. And sometimes this means that you're just printing from the internet a list of emotions. And if you are unsure what is it that you are feeling, you can go through the list and see, well, is this, am I frustrated, am I upset? Because with emotions, we tend to see, if you think about emotions as a nice word, we tend to, it tends to be easier to identify those emotions that are louder, kind of like above the water. But generally, we have emotions that sit under the water. that are really at the core of what we are experiencing in that moment. And those emotions may be harder to recognize or admit that we are experiences when we are heartbroken or we have been disappointed or maybe we feel defeated or disrespected. There are emotions that are harder to admit that we experience, so we tend to stay with the ones that are above the water. So doing that process of asking yourself, what am I feeling, and trying to be more accurate in identifying the specific emotion. And as you are doing this, you will acquire more words, more vocabulary to describe your emotions, which means that you will work towards more accuracy in identifying your emotions. And one of my favorite questions is, what else am I feeling? So don't stay with the ones about the water, but asking yourself, what else am I feeling? Jamie: Yeah, good. Is there a resource or something on your website perhaps? Or do I just Google a list of emotions and print them out? Like, what do you recommend for Lorea Martinez: Yeah, Jamie: someone Lorea Martinez: so Jamie: like me? Lorea Martinez: one of my favorite models is from an author called Placik. It's P-L-U-T-C-H-I-K, I believe, if I spell that correctly. So Will of Emotions by Placik, that can be a good resource to look at emotions. And also, this model helps you to see how emotions are related to each other. And that's can be also very interesting to explore. Jamie: Absolutely. It's emotional literacy is not something we often talk about or hear about, but is definitely underrated. So great advice there, doctor. Thank you. How does your work help educators prevent or overcome burnout? Lorea Martinez: Yes, that's a big one. And as I was mentioning earlier, these skills are not just for kids, they are truly for adults as well. And if there's something that we have learned through the pandemic in many educational systems around the world, is that our school systems are not okay. We have built systems that are... for starters, not providing the support that our children need, but also they are not healthy work environments for the adults either. So when educators engage in the process of developing these skills, what they do is, I would say the first thing they do is unlearn what they have learned over time about emotions. And unless you have Some adults went to schools that taught social emotional learning, but for many of us in you know, mid-career, midlife we learn a lot of these skills by trial and error and for some of us with many errors, right? So the work for educators when they develop these skills, they start to see and develop new tools and strategies to deal with their own stress. And I think a big challenge for educators is to set up healthy boundaries, for example, where, again, they care so much about the children and being the best educators that they can be, that they put too much on their plate, right? So I think that going through that process of really thinking about what is your purpose, what do I really want to... from this job, what do I want to give to my students? And then seeing how being well in terms of not only your physical health, but your mental health is as important in order to be present for your students, to be calm, to be able to take in the stress and the challenges that children bring, is necessary that we have educators that... are agile with their emotions and they have high emotional intelligence. So I think that it contributes to mental health and avoid burnout because as we are developing these skills, we are also identifying what are the things in my life that are not serving me well, that are maybe hindering my ability to perform at the level that I want and then to identify some alternatives. Some behaviors that... may support me better or maybe some habits, some routines that I can implement in my life that can support me better. And sometimes that may require that you say no to certain things, right, that come your way so you can set up those healthy boundaries. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, that's really important. And I don't know if it's data backed what I'm about to say, but certainly for me, I believe having a high awareness or high emotional intelligence is contributing to my positive mental wellbeing. So anyway, that's just my view for what that's worth. In terms of... Well, here's an interesting question. So as a parent, let's say I'm using something like the heart model and I'm really focused on being intentional with my feelings and helping my children develop emotional intelligence through social emotional learning. How do I know it's working? Like you can't really measure this stuff, can you? Lorea Martinez: How do you know that it's working? Jamie: Yeah, I don't know. Maybe it's an odd question or maybe there's no real definitive answer here, but I'm just curious. Lorea Martinez: I think that you can see it, well, I think you can see it in two different ways. One, in your individual child, when they have this awareness, I think they, you can see it in how they respond to frustration, for example, if they are able to kind of like turn the corner in different situations. Sometimes we call it emotional agility, right? when you are able to experience those feelings, but then you can process them and move on, right? A lot of the work in social emotional learning is not to get stuck in your emotions, it's actually to go through that process, learn what you need to know, learn what you need to learn, and then move on from there. So in the case of kids, and I can say for my own experience with my own children, what I see is that they have a lot more resources to deal with challenging situations and that can be, oh, I don't have any of my friends in my new classroom and they are starting school in two days here in California. How they respond to that situation or what happens when they go to summer camp, they don't know any other kid. or they are trying to do something in the playground that is not quite working, right? So there are many situations, many small and big challenges that our kids face, and when they have that awareness, they can name their emotions, and they can then move through that process a lot quicker so they don't get stuck in their emotions. So if you think about like... the tantrums that our two-year-olds used to have, right? The two-year-old doesn't have the ability at the time to really move through that process quickly, but as kids are getting older, what we are teaching them to do is really to move through that process a lot faster and to be agile and to be flexible with their emotions. So I think that's something that you can observe in how they respond to different challenges. And even if you have kids with different personalities. And then I would say that the other part, since we cannot teach what we don't practice, right, as adults, so I think that when you are trying to teach this to your kids, probably as an adult, you are gonna learn some tools yourself. And for me, what it supports me is to not get caught up on my own patterns of behavior. and responding to my children in ways that I don't want to be. Right? I know that I can respond in constructive ways. And if I notice myself being in a place where I know I'm going to give a bad answer or a hard answer to my child, maybe I take a time in, in our household. We don't call them timeouts. We call them time ins because it means you need a break, right? You need some time to maybe take a few deep breaths. You need to step away from that situation and then you can come back and maybe you need to give your child a consequence. But I think for parents, we sometimes, again, get caught up on their emotional cycle. We are reacting to their behavior and that doesn't, generally speaking, it doesn't get us to a positive outcome. Everybody's upset and the situation has not been resolved. So I think that you can observe it in the individual, in the child's behavior, but also as a parent, I think that you feel so much more in control because you are not reacting to your kids all the time. You are really thoughtful and intentional, and you are allowing yourself to experience those feelings as well, right? And sometimes I tell my kids, hey, I'm sorry, I... overreacted in this situation or I said something that I shouldn't have said, I apologize. And I think when kids see that as well, when they see that as adults we also make mistakes, these are skills that we are all trying to develop. When they make mistakes, they are a lot more forgiving to themselves, right? They can have that compassion and to say, hey, we are all working to support each other and to live in this community. And we can all do something to make the environment. the climate in our household better. Jamie: Yeah, it's a wonderfully important skill. Now, I think certainly our teachers in our education system are really doing the best job they can. They're doing tremendous work in spite of a flawed system. But I'm curious, what is your vision for the future of education? What would you like to see built into our education system or changed about our education system? Lorea Martinez: Yes, I mean my biggest dream is that we have educational systems where social emotional learning is seen as the way we do teaching and learning where it's not perceived as this separate item that is being taught 30 minutes once a week, but truly that we understand how deeply these skills influence our performance, our ability to learn. and we don't see them as, you know, quotation marks, soft skills, but these are truly life skills that we need in order to really become the people that we want to be. And that, I think, starts in our households and then it also goes to our educational systems. I think that if we have more and more people, as you were mentioning, being intentional about our emotions, how we relate to ourselves... how we relate to others, I think our society would be a lot more harmonious because we would have a lot more tools to build bridges and deal with conflict and just come bring people together that have different perspectives and have a conversation about why that is and still have a good understanding of each other. Jamie: Yeah, well said. And is there a program as an educator that I could come to or even as a parent for that matter? Do you facilitate programs like this where we can learn more about how to incorporate into our homes or into our lessons into our, you know, our schools? Lorea Martinez: Yes, in my work, I work with schools and organizations providing professional development to learn how to implement the heart and mind model. And I do webinars and podcasts on a regular basis. So if this is something that you want to learn more, and of course the book is probably a big resource on my website. Your audience can also find a discussion guide. And that has been a really good professional development tool for educators, where teachers are coming together. They are reading the book. And with the discussion guide, they are finding opportunities for connection to discuss the ideas in the book, to go into their classrooms and try new strategies. and then come back and have a conversation. I believe that this work needs to happen in community. And I can see how a group of mothers club, a parents club could do something like that, reading the book and discussing some of the ideas and just thinking about like, how can you teach these concepts and these skills in your home? Because truly the skills are as important in the classroom as in our homes, like they are life skills that we all. Jamie: Wonderful. And I'll put the link to your website in our show notes. So for those listening or viewing this, they can have access to those resources. At least find the book is it's definitely a brilliant place to start now. Dr. Luraya, a fun question to round things off as we conclude the podcast today. If you had a time machine, you can go back to your younger self, maybe a 12 year old version of yourself. What's one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self? Lorea Martinez: Wow, that's a great question. I would say be patient. I think as a 12-year-old, I thought that things were not moving quick enough. I had all these ideas of things that I wanted to do, places that I wanted to go, and I can say that I've done many of those things, but at the time it felt like I was living in a box and I just wanted to go out so badly. And I would say, yep, be more patient, it will come. Jamie: Great advice, Dr. Loreau-Martinez, thank you so much for your time and generosity today. I got a ton out of today's conversation and I know our listeners will too. I will put your details in the show notes, but thanks again and all the best. Lorea Martinez: Thank you, it was a pleasure to be here. Jamie: Take care, cheers.
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