In The News

Teachers’ Cues Shape Students’ Sense of Belonging

Teachers’ Cues Shape Students’ Sense of Belonging

Posted on Jun 21, 2017

Education Week | June 20, 2017 By Evie Blad If students don't feel like they belong in their school environment, they can feel like impostors, said Dena Simmons, the director of education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a former middle school teacher. That feeling can create fear and anxiety that hijack students' learning experiences or lead them to believe they are not capable of success, she said. Simmons' views are not just informed by her professional and academic work; they are also shaped by her experiences as a child of an immigrant mother who transferred from a public school in the Bronx to a mostly white boarding school in Connecticut. In a TED Talk, Simmons discusses the time a teacher at her new school loudly confronted her in front of her peers about the way she pronounced "asking." The moment, she said, made her feel like she didn't belong. Simmons says students in all kinds of schools pick up on cues like she did. Disproportionate discipline rates for children of color, a lack of literature featuring characters who look or live like them, or a sense that their "identity isn't present" or reflected in their teachers or peers can create hurdles to belonging. Read the full interview … read more

Dena Simmons, Ed.D., Activist and Educator, Honored with “The Future is Now” Award

Dena Simmons, Ed.D., Activist and Educator, Honored with “The Future is Now” Award

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Dena Simmons’ first role model was her mother, whose resilience and strength brought her to the United States from Antigua. In New York, she worked tirelessly to create a world in which Dena and her sisters could thrive. Dena’s mom instilled the value of education in her daughters, empowering them to effect change in their lives, and the lives of others, through learning. Today, Dena is a role model for countless women and girls across the nation. A renowned author, speaker and activist, scholar and educator, Dena is a beacon for anyone pursuing a life of learning, teaching, and social activism. From a young age, Dena’s pursuit of knowledge was powered by a learned and lived experience of injustice and inequality. In a segment profiling her as one of PBS’s “Makers: Women Who Make America,” Dena shares experiences of racial inequity, violence and prejudice in her childhood that were driving forces behind her decision to dedicate her life to educating others and fighting for justice. After graduating from Middlebury College, Dena returned to her hometown of the Bronx as an educator. In Ms. Simmons’ classroom, safety came first. Dena knew that before the academic goals set by administrators could be met, her students needed to feel confident and loved in the classroom. She was determined to create the school environment she wished she’d had growing up in the Bronx. “Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin,” she says in her powerful 2015 TED Talk, ‘How students of color confront imposter syndrome.’ Dena, a student of life, is a Truman Scholar, a Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellow, and a Fulbright Scholar. She is a graduate of Pace University’s Childhood Education Master’s Program, and Columbia University, Teachers College. Her passion and motto of “leading with the heart” has brought her on a journey of fellowship and learning around … read more

The five-minute trick that helps Instagram’s CEO crush procrastination

The five-minute trick that helps Instagram’s CEO crush procrastination

Posted on Jun 8, 2017

QUARTZ | June 8, 2017 By Leah Fessler Kevin Systrom may be CEO and co-founder of Instagram—but he’s still susceptible to procrastination. And so the 33-year-old billionaire has come up with a simple trick to tackle the tasks he tends to put off. “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing,” he recently told Axios when asked about his favorite life hack. Read the full article … read more

Emotional Intelligence Education Has a Role in Suicide Prevention

Emotional Intelligence Education Has a Role in Suicide Prevention

Posted on Jun 8, 2017

Thrive Global | June 8, 2017 By Robin S. Stern, PhD, and Diana Divecha, PhD The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why sparked a national conversation around teen suicide and the high school social fabric in which it takes place. The 13-segment series recounts the drama — rejection, rumors, humiliation, threats, back stabbing, rape — that surrounds high school junior, Hannah, both leading up to, and after, her suicide. Hannah tells her own story through the audio tapes she mailed just prior to her death to all whom she held responsible for her decision. Broadly, the show raises questions about the role of social media, parents, educators, and peers in suicide prevention, and it challenges us to think about teen social culture and how we engage with young people to face this serious — and rising — health risk. As psychologists, moms and experts in emotional intelligence, we are deeply troubled. Read the full article … read more

Is Social-Emotional Learning Really Going to Work for Students of Color?

Is Social-Emotional Learning Really Going to Work for Students of Color?

Posted on Jun 7, 2017

Education Week | June 7, 2017 By Dena Simmons As a black educator, trainer, and researcher in the field of social-emotional learning, I am often asked, in confidence, by teachers and school leaders: "Is this SEL program really going to work for my students of color?" I continue to be taken aback by the question and wonder about its genesis, especially since we know from research the benefits of school-based, social-emotional learning for students: improved attitudes and behaviors, better relationships, and increased academic performance. But deeper reflection leaves me feeling conflicted. Read the full article … read more

Creating a Community of Emotional Learning in Connecticut

Creating a Community of Emotional Learning in Connecticut

Posted on Apr 20, 2017

Standing before a crowd of 150 leaders in education from across Connecticut, Marc Brackett, Ph.D., Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, polled the room: “So, how are you feeling this morning?” A happy murmur spread through the audience at Yale’s West Campus, where educators, administrators, and friends of the Center were gathered for the first of many events committed to making Connecticut the first emotionally intelligent state. The packed auditorium represented a diverse range of districts across the state of Connecticut where RULER, the Center’s evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning (SEL), has already been implemented in dozens of schools, from pre-K to high school. RULER helps schools integrate emotional intelligence into their everyday practice. It enhances the way students learn, educators teach and lead, and families nurture their children. “RULER is changing lives from Milford to Branford, to Hartford and Bridgeport,” underscored Steven Hernández, Esq., Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, who gave the morning’s impassioned keynote address. “This work is important. You have a partner in me,” said Senator Christopher Murphy on a pre-recorded message. Murphy underscored the value of the Center’s work for school systems and the support of these initiatives at the capitol. Staff and researchers from the Center led three sessions of hands-on, reflective exercises that provided attendees the opportunity to share their stories. RULER co-developers Craig Bailey, Ph.D., Jessica Hoffmann, Ph.D., and Nicole Elbertson kicked-off the day by inviting the room to share innovative ways RULER is being used at their schools. Dena Simmons, Ed.D., Director of Education, guided participants on a journey of the intersection of emotional intelligence and culturally responsive pedagogy. By way of example, educators considered the role of culture in recognizing and regulating emotions. Dr. Robin Stern, Associate Director of the Center, and Kathryn Lee, Project Director of RULER for Families, facilitated a dialogue on best practices for engaging families. “RULER … read more

How to Change the Story About Students of Color

How to Change the Story About Students of Color

Posted on Apr 20, 2017

Greater Good Magazine | April 18, 2017 By Dena Simmons As a teacher and teacher-educator for more than a decade, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of educators. Now, in my current capacity as the director of education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, part of my job is supporting educators from all over the nation in learning, living, and teaching social and emotional learning (SEL), a set of life skills that support people in experiencing, managing, and expressing their emotions effectively and in fostering rewarding interpersonal relationships. Throughout all of these years working with educators in various capacities, I have been continually inspired by their dedication to supporting their students’ academic, social, and emotional growth. Read the full article … read more

Let’s talk: The art of understanding and repairing our differences

Posted on Jan 19, 2017

BY ROBIN STERN AND DIANA DIVECHA In the wake of the presidential election, feelings are running high in America, with half of the electorate rejoicing and the other half panicking. The divide we felt in the nation in the run-up to the election now seems more intense than ever. How can we understand our differences? How can we begin to repair them? In the world of emotional intelligence, we close the gaps in our understanding of people “on the other side” by first being aware of our own feelings and stories, and then getting curious about the feelings and stories on the other side of the conversation. This is not easy. A conversation that includes opposing viewpoints can feel like looking at the classic vase-or-face picture. We alternate between seeing one or the other. But to see the entire picture — or hold an integrated conversation — requires that all parts be viewed simultaneously. This can be hard. When we teach emotional intelligence, we first teach people how to recognize and regulate their own feelings. Sometimes that involves taking a pause between feeling triggered and responding. In the book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild describes how she “turned off her own alarm system” in order to listen for a deep understanding of what her subjects — Tea Party members in the deep South “on the other side of the empathy wall” — were telling her. If we don’t temporarily check our feelings, they leak out and color our ability to see the other person’s picture. And since feelings travel faster in the brain than thoughts, taking that “meta-moment” allows the thinking and reasoning part of our brain, the frontal cortex, to weigh in. When we are unable to step into another’s frame and instead shelter among like-minded company, our views become more polarized and it becomes easy to … read more

Dena Simmons of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Presents TED Talk on Broadway

Dena Simmons of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Presents TED Talk on Broadway

Posted on Dec 22, 2016

Last November, our Director of Education, Dena Simmons, gave a TED talk on Broadway, and we are happy to report that her talk, How students of color confront impostor syndrome, is now live. In her talk, Dena shares her journey to where she is now and illustrates the emotional damage done when young people can't be themselves, when they are forced to erase themselves in order to be acceptable. She urges all of us to create educational experiences that allow all students to learn in the comfort of their own skin. To see Dena’s talk, please … read more

Yale School of Medicine releases report on social and emotional learning in Bridgeport Public Schools

Posted on Nov 8, 2016

Michael Strambler, PhD, and Joanna Meyer, MAT, from Yale School of Medicine at The Consultation Center on November 2 released an initial evaluation report on the district-wide Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative in Bridgeport. SEL is the process of developing personal and inter-personal knowledge and skills related to feelings, thoughts and behaviors. During the first year of classroom-level programming, Strambler and Meyer found evidence that SEL tools were becoming a regular part of classroom instruction. The team also found evidence supporting the relationship of student outcomes such as academic grades, attendance, and rates of suspensions and expulsions with student perceptions of positive school climate and their own SEL skills. Student self-assessments of behavior regulation had the strongest and most consistent association. Bridgeport’s SEL initiative began in the 2013-2014 school year, when Strambler and colleagues partnered with the Wilbur Cross School to implement the RULER Approach, a social and emotional learning program developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The RULER Approach focuses on teaching students and adults to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate emotions. This initiative grew to become a district-wide effort when Interim Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz joined the district in March 2014, and the Yale-BPS SEL Partnership was formed. School leaders and district administers spent the 2014-2015 school year preparing for district-wide implementation of RULER, including participating in a Leadership Development program, launching an SEL task force, forming a RULER team at each school, and participating in RULER training. Schools began to introduce students to RULER during the 2015-2016 school year, with the support of the district’s SEL facilitators. Bridgeport’s SEL initiative was featured in an independent report on SEL efforts in three U.S. school districts. The Consultation Center’s evaluation of RULER draws on data from the district’s annual School Climate Survey for students, RULER Implementation Surveys and Logs completed by school personnel, and de-identified student data from district records. Data from the 2015-2016 school … read more