A Conspiracy of Caring Adults: Supporting Children’s Social, Emotional, and Academic Needs

One of my real heroes in education, Dr. James Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale Child Study Center, says that when he was a boy, “the adults in my community were locked in a conspiracy to raise me up.”  It’s an inspired use of ‘conspiracy’ in my opinion and makes me want to seek out co-conspirators across the world to raise our children up.

That’s why I’m excited about the recent launch of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. The commission, which is housed at the Aspen Institute, brings together some of the top experts across education, government, science, and business to help articulate new vision for what constitutes success in schools across a child’s social, emotional, and academic development.

I love when really smart people “conspire” to support children—especially when these really smart people commit to finding the best ways to ensure the social, emotional, and academic development of children so that they thrive in school and become successful in life. Conspire, by the way, literally means “breathe together.” Imagine a world in which we all ‘breathe together’ to make it a better place for children!

The commission will kick off officially in November 2016 and over its two-year lifespan will hold field hearings, conduct site visits, and solicit expert testimony to help reframe what success looks like across the full trajectory of a child’s K-12 education—and help “chart a course” for policymakers and educators to get there.

The list of commissioners and advisors is a who’s who of esteemed voices with broad expertise and includes Dr. Comer among many other friends of Operation Respect.  During the launch webinar, Tim Shriver, himself trained by Dr. Comer, and a co-chair of the commission,  hit on one of the key elements of the exploration this group will do when he reminded participants that, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

Everything we do at Operation Respect, from our social-emotional learning curriculum to professional training, is geared toward helping adults and children build strong relationships. When adults are given the right tools and supports that they need to help children and youth express their feelings constructively, resolve conflict peacefully, celebrate diversity, and engage with each other in a spirit of caring, compassion and cooperation, what happens? The educational equivalent of magic.

Of course, creating safe, compassionate learning environments where children can thrive doesn’t happen with the wave of a wand. That’s why I’m excited to follow the work of this commission over the next two years and its contributions to our national conversation of how best to support the whole needs of each and every child who is educated in our school systems.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the evolving work of this new SEAD commission. And if you want to get started now in learning how you can create safe, compassionate learning environments, please visit our website.

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