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What’s an Emotion Scientist? Inside the New Concept Shaping Social-Emotional Learning

August 5, 2019

By: Kate Stringer

Source: The 74

When Nilda Irizarry was a sophomore in her Springfield, Massachusetts, high school, she didn’t raise her hand and she didn’t participate in class discussions. Although she loved learning, she was certain she didn’t fit in.

But her teacher Patricia Gardner saw something very different. One day, she pulled Irizarry aside and asked why she didn’t speak up more, because she was such a good writer. Irizarry said that she didn’t feel smart and didn’t want to be embarrassed.

“‘No, your ideas are worthy,’” Irizarry recalled Gardner saying. “‘You need to know you can do this.’” Irizarry — now a middle school principal in Farmington, Connecticut — didn’t have a term for it then, but her teacher was acting as an “emotion scientist,” a new phrase that describes what some educators have been doing for a long time: investigating what lies behind student behavior. If you haven’t heard the phrase, you probably will soon. The concept — coined by Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence — is becoming increasingly popular through its use in the Center’s social-emotional learning program, RULER. Helping students and teachers investigate their emotions can lead to healthier humans and better learners, Brackett said.

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