A Voice for Emotional Intelligence

Read more about the award in The New Haven Register, "Friends Center leader honored by Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence" by Brian Zahn.

On Monday, November 14, The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence honored Allyx Schiavone, director of Friends Center for Children, with the Marvin Maurer Spotlight Award. The award is named after an educator, Marvin Maurer, who — seeking to energize learning in his social studies class  developed a Feeling Word Curriculum that has since become a key component in Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER programs  The Marvin Maurer Spotlight award recognizes an educator who embodies Mr. Maurer’s belief in the importance of connecting personal experiences to academic material and exhibits outstanding teaching practices of emotional intelligence.

“Friends Center for Children is a real community where children, staff and parents have the same core values,” said Marc Brackett, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence director. “The space radiates with warmth, trust and rigor: parents interacting with teachers, and children loving learning. It comes as no surprise that RULER — our center’s approach to social and emotional learning — has become part of the immune system of this amazing learning community. I couldn’t be prouder of Friends Center for Children.”

“I am thrilled to be receiving this award. It is especially poignant in light of the tumultuous time we find ourselves in as a result of a polarizing electoral season,” Allyx Schiavone said. “Never has the need for emotional intelligence been so evident. Recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating our feelings has the power to help our community explore differences, find tolerance and eventually heal.”

At the luncheon celebration held at the New Haven Friends Meeting house, Allyx reflected on her personal inspirations for her work at Friends Center – naming and honoring her son and daughter, Penn and Josie, for inspiring her “to be better and do better.” She also shared the Quaker values (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship) and Friends Center mission (educate children, empower families, inspire teachers, engage community, embrace diversity) that together motivate all aspects of the Friends Center program, including its sliding scale tuition implemented to ensure no socio-economic majority in the program; its parent COOP where families contribute to our program each week; its commitment to diversity and having no racial majority; its Adverse Childhood Experience program which addresses potentially traumatic events children experience that can have negative, lasting effects on a child’s health and well-being.

Allyx’s message enumerated the many reasons why emotional intelligence, specifically the RULER program from Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

“We use RULER because we see a definitive impact on cognitive and academic growth through the program… because we believe that social and emotional learning is a component of an ideal learning community… because we navigate a diverse population with varying belief systems and cultures… We use RULER to set the foundation to help us navigate our implicit biases… because we see the link between this self-awareness and tolerance…because we see the impact that poor attachment, poor socialization and poor self-regulation can have on a community in multiple ways.”

Allyx shared the personal privileges and challenges she has experienced in finding her voice, and, in Quaker tradition, ended her message with queries to inspire all of us to consider the power and impact of our own voice:

What is your inspiration?
What is your motivation?
What are your values?
What is your work?         

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Seeking Solace

The word comfort is defined as “a state of physical ease and freedom for pain or constraint”, but the word can take on different meanings for everyone. For some, comfort can come from a hug or a good book, time alone to think, or listening to happy music. We can bundle our children in warm coats, scarves and gloves to keep them comfortable, but we also need to tune into their emotional needs as well during these winter months.

Understanding emotional behavior is the cornerstone of our philosophy at the Friends Center for Children in New Haven. Our beliefs and curriculum provide our students the emotional resources to rely on their relationships, interactions and their own feelings for comfort. We believe that teaching coping mechanisms to young children will only enhance their emotional development.

As teachers we know that the needs of each child differ, particularly in terms of babies and toddlers. Every adult faces the dilemma of interpreting the state of a crying baby and must infer the root of the problem through body language and clues from their environment. When children are old enough to voice what is bothering them, it is our job to ensure that they can articulate their feelings in a constructive and effective way. Establishing routines or rituals will help children to make comfortable transitions throughout their day. Encouraging creative or fantasy play is essential, as it is an avenue that children can comfortably navigate in their own way and feel in control by “speaking their own language”.

 

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Building School Readiness through Early Childhood Education

Too many children will enter school this Fall already behind. And, once behind, few catch up. Studies have shown that by third grade those children who started behind have vocabularies that are only 1/3 of their counterparts and they also have significant gaps in math and reading that continues with them throughout high school.

For children growing up in the United States, early childhood care and education have become an increasingly common experience. On average, preschool care develops young children's early academic skills through enriching activities and sometimes direct instruction*. Yet the type and quality of the care that children receive varies widely and so these school readiness gaps can even be seen across children who have attended some form of early childhood education.

Research indicates that preschoolers who attend high quality early childhood programs:

  • Enter kindergarten with skills necessary for school success.
  • Show greater understanding of verbal and numerical concepts.
  • Are more socially competent.
  • Show ability to stay with an activity longer.
  • Are more likely to make typical progress through the primary grades.
  • Are less often placed in special education classes.
  • Are less likely to be retained in kindergarten.

Early childhood education reform is critical to the success of the kindergarten through 12th grade educational system, and is the surest way to guarantee academic success for our children.

Our vision for early childhood and school readiness is for early childhood programs to offer high quality, comprehensive and culturally appropriate services and support to both the child and the whole family.

The solution to building more high-quality early childhood education programs is for states and the federal government to invest in new high-quality early childhood education and for states and municipalities to better define quality early education and set standards. Our nation needs to better fund quality birth-to-5 programs and build an infrastructure to support early learning. Otherwise we will always be playing catch-up and we will struggle to fix the learning deficits of kids who arrive at kindergarten unprepared to succeed.

*Katherine A. Magnuson and Jane Waldfogel, "Early Childhood Care and Education: Effects on Ethnic and Racial Gaps in School Readiness," The Future of Children, 15 (2005): 169-196

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