Let’s talk about the role of natural progression as it pertains to your choice of a Social and Emotional Learning Program. Like a program that is comprehensive, natural progression is a key element for a program’s effectiveness and efficiency in developing emotional intelligence, improving social skills, launching creative problem solving and character development.
As we discussed in Part 1, the problems you are trying to solve – bullying, inclusion, poor social choices like involvement with drugs or alcohol, improvement in grades and test scores – though seemingly different, all stem from a single issue. The core issue is whether or not your students know how to make healthy choices.
As you know from your own life experience, making good choices involves a series of steps: gathering facts, weighing issues, applying values, considering outcomes. Rarely is a decision simply and only about right and wrong. We can certainly tell our children ‘don’t do that, do this,’ but are we preparing them to know how to choose? Are we giving life skills for children they can use in the future? A social and emotional learning program that is implemented in a natural progression of lessons, builds each lesson on the last, creating an opportunity to teach life skills and the steps of decision-making.
Natural progression makes sense in terms of efficiency. If we can support and bolster the success of each lesson by dovetailing it to the previous one, strengthening our character building foundation as we go, why wouldn’t we?
The final gift natural progression brings to your social and emotional learning program is the gift of connection. Linking the lessons links your students’ discoveries. It carries their vision beyond themselves, connecting their awareness to their peers, families, neighbors and finally the world. Natural progression creates the path to teaching children empathy and community by gently guiding them one step at a time, one lesson at a time, to emotional maturity & to the realization that everyone struggles with how to decide what to do.
Your first hint that natural progression is a part of a program will be the use of ‘story‘ as the vehicle for the communication of lessons. Often there will be a hero or heroine with whom your students can identify and with whom they can become involved and hopeful for their positive outcome.
The element of ‘story’ will delight your students and it will lead them to enjoy their character building, yet another check for efficiency. If you can eliminate the struggle of getting them to participate in yet another traditionally based classroom ‘subject’, why choose any other kind of program?
Look for the progression of vision and awareness through the exercises linked to each chapter of the story. There you should find the step-by-step process guiding your students to consider the world outside them and into being a part of a global humanity.
There are many programs available that have separate and independent lessons that allow for succinct communication of an individual idea, value or concept and its acceptance as ‘right or wrong’. Often these lessons take the form of traditional classroom based delivery: the teacher administers the lesson, discussion is sometimes included, a paper or test is given to indicate understanding, perhaps a craft project is included to glorify the concept, the program moves on to the next individual lesson.
Beware the program that instructs the child who they should be by singling out or ‘identifying’ qualities of ‘good character.’ Natural progression allows for a flowing structure of forward motion utilizing observation and consideration, connecting lessons as it connects the dots of how to apply a system of decision making in a multitude of difficult situations. At the same time natural progression removes the stressors of right/wrong, good/bad. It replaces these judgmental dictations with life skills. We are given the opportunity to create a web of thoughtfulness, effectiveness and efficiency in our character building. And if we can, why wouldn’t we? Isn’t that the much more valuable and beneficial gift to give our children?
### For an example of natural progression examine The Manadoob Program for Self-Esteemnovel, MANADOOB Mystery of the Moobia Stonesfor use of story. The Table of Contents in the novel’s companion Ask-It Workbook clearly illustrates the use of natural progression as it pertains to both the building of lessons/life skills and the guidance of student awareness.