Academic + Social-Emotional Intelligence = Success
What can a high-tech company like Google learn from a classroom at Fayerweather? It turns out quite a bit.
In 2012, Google used their significant resources to launch Project Aristotle, a study of hundreds of Google teams which searched for common attributes of high functioning teams. Researchers were initially puzzled. They found that although many different kinds of teams worked well together, attributes of one successful team might be at odds with those of another. There seemed to be dozens of important behaviors, but the combination of those behaviors was different in each group. Upon closer inspection, researchers discovered two characteristics common to all successful teams: each team member was afforded equal “air time” to share his or her opinion; and the teams were comprised of individuals who had high “social sensitivity”. In other words, they could “read the room” and adjust their own behavior appropriately to help the team move forward. Remember, both the highly functioning and poorly functioning teams were comprised of intelligent people. So, the difference between being able to apply one’s intelligence in a team setting came down to social skills.
Google discovered something that Fayerweather has known from the outset.
We view education as more than just academic progress. Instead of standardized tests, we use a wide variety of on-going informal and formal assessments which allow us to calibrate our teaching to meet the needs of the child and the class as a whole. At the same time, we pay close attention to children’s emotional intelligence and explicitly teach them how to work cooperatively, how to “read the room,”, and how to appropriately interact to create a positive learning environment. The combination of fine-tuned academic and social-emotional instruction results in graduates who excel in high school and beyond.
How does Fayerweather teach these skills? One of my favorite examples comes from our 1st/ 2nd grade classroom. Each week, students keep a journal in which they write back and forth with their teachers. This allows the student and the teacher to learn about each other, and it allows the teacher to assess the child’s writing and model proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure. For one student who was having difficulty socializing and working with his peers, the teacher was able to use the journal for writing instruction and social skill building. In the journal, she asked the student to be a social detective. “This week your job is to study me! Be sneaky and see what I like and ask me questions about my interests, not about yours.” In the next journal entry the student asked, “What kind of tea is your favorite? I like Earl Gray.” Over the course of the year, the child’s writing improved, and he learned to enter social situations more smoothly resulting in a highly functioning classroom team!
Too often, the general public gives little credence to the emphasis on social skills in school and deems them niceties that detract from academic success. As Google discovered, teaching and emphasizing social-emotional intelligence is not an extra, it is a requirement for success in the modern workforce.
To learn more about Google’s Project Aristotle and its quest to build the perfect team, you can follow this link to the February 28, 2016 New York Times Magazine article.