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Potomac News

Developing Social Intelligence

Children are striving to make connections with each other hundreds of times a day. These connections occur in a huge variety of ways, from lunchtime conversation, to pairing on a social studies task, to dancing together in music. These interactions are complex indeed, and while we may be “wired” for these interactions, it should come as no surprise that negotiating their complexity is not innate. It seems like the Middle School educator’s life is at times surfeited by conflict resolution discussions that emerge because connection has failed to take place successfully. Connecting well is known as being “socially intelligent,” and we are currently addressing this topic at our Tuesday assemblies.

I sought to approach the topic in assembly by sharing short video “playlets” where feelings are hurt in an failure to connect successfully. I first showed a short video where teachers were the actors, discussing the “villain” of the video, and her reasons for saying things that ultimately hurt anothers’ feelings.

Reactions ranged widely, from “she’s just being mean” and “she doesn’t like the other girl” to “she needs attention too,” and “she doesn’t mean to be mean, she’s just saying what she thinks.” This last perspective characterizes so many interactions among Middle Schoolers. For whatever reason, the intent behind a statement and its impact do not closely match. We cannot change the fact that students will make these mistakes--indeed, adults make them frequently too—however, we do need to work on developing the skill to read the situation well enough to at least recognize and make amends when one has inadvertently hurt another’s feelings.

The second video shown was written by three fourth graders, where one (Marisa Kadri) sits drawing a picture of a dog with a friend (Sarah Erickson). Azzi Fudd comes over, and, confused as to what Marisa’s picture is depicting, asks, “What is that? An alien? Because it doesn’t look like anything normal.” Sarah’s character tries to defuse the situation, but Azzi’s character notably gets upset at this attempt to redirect, showing her frustration by insisting that Marisa’s picture be painted a certain color. This situation resonated with many-- How do we handle a situation where a peer tries to correct our behavior, even if we have done wrong? This is a complex situation, and the centerpiece, I hope, of our next assembly. Even though questions are being created at times in addition to answers, I am rejoicing in our discussions on Tuesday mornings about these very important character traits for success.