It is back-to-school time and many schools across the US have reopened. Teachers are back in their classrooms but some parents would prefer to continue remote learning.
“And still millions of students stayed remote, their parents concerned about the virus, not to mention bullying, racism, misbehavior, and child care.” (1)
Now more than ever, Educators and Parents are prioritizing skills that can help students cope with emotional stress, solve problems, and avoid peer pressure. In addition, students have had to learn to practice better self-care since the pandemic.
Anti-bullying, conflict resolution, and suicide prevention are other important topics that teachers must be mindful of during every school year. It's a tall order for educators.
This is why incorporating social and emotional learning into the daily curriculum is critical to the health and well-being of our children. SEL Skills can be taught, modeled, and practiced on a daily basis.
Social learning theory, proposed by Albert Bandura, emphasizes the importance of observing, modelling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory considers how both environmental and cognitive factors interact to influence human learning and behavior. (2)
Social-Emotional Learning Activities can and should be part of an educator's toolkit to help students gain important social-emotional skills and character building.
SEL programming can have a positive impact up to 18 years later on academics, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use.Casel
Love In A Big World SEL Curriculum
Guest Tamara Fyke is the creator of Social Emotional Learning Lesson Plans that puts the right tools in the hands of educators to make a meaningful difference in students' lives. Her goal is to help prepare them to be “difference-makers” themselves.
The goal of Love In A Big World is to connect with kids…to let them know that they are not alone in this big world…to teach them how to make wise choices…to give them hope.
The SEL Activities Tamara and her team have created support a growth mindset, perspective-taking, impulse control, and mindfulness. The SEL Lessons are:
Character-driven lessons that support your everyday student interactions.
Fit organically into your academic schedule, morning meetings, advisory periods, or after-school programs.
SEL Resources are integral for teachers and homeschooling families. Love in a Big World is perfect for classrooms, community groups, or homeschoolers in grades K-12. The curriculum includes workbooks, journals, worksheets, and activities that will help teach important sel competencies.
Tamara says, “Ensuring our students are healthy in body, mind and spirit is preeminent.”
On a more individual level, the skills learned within an SEL program have been shown to help students better cope with emotional stress, solve problems, and avoid peer pressure to engage in harmful activities.
MusiCity Kids is an online show for kids featuring Nashville’s top EDU content providers. Supporting K-8 learners and families at home or in the classroom. Covering:
- Financial Literacy
- Character Education
- Kid entrepreneurship
- Breathing & Yoga
If you are interested in purchasing curriculum or other resources, email Tamara directly at [email protected] for a 40% discount.
Meet Tamara Fyke
A social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and communities. She is the creator, author, and brand manager for Love In A Big World, which equips K-12 educators with a social-emotional learning curriculum, music, and media products that are research-based, relevant, and practical. The LBW brand has been her core focus for over 25 years, with the goal to empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who discover a sense of purpose and make a positive difference in the world.
As a prolific content creator, Tamara’s vision encompasses curriculum, music, technology, live events, and more. By utilizing authentic expression through Spoken Word videos from some of Nashville’s best artists and teens, she’s connected the dots to modern culture and community-crossing messaging. Along with an intern team from Vanderbilt, she is developing app technology for young adults to resource video-driven content and engage with subjects critical to their mental health and wellbeing, where data can be obtained to guide a greater understanding of their lives. It’s just the beginning of how to provide meaningful insights into how to love in a big world.
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[00:00:00] Rebecca: On today's episode of a healthy bite. I am talking to Tamra Fyke. We are going to be discussing social, emotional learning, and character-building in children. Tamara has two websites: Love In A Big World and one that is focused on music. Both are geared towards providing parents and teachers with educational content that helps children to build emotional intelligence and strong character qualities. Stay tuned.
[00:00:31] Announcer: Welcome to a healthy bite. You're one nibble closer to a more satisfying way of. A healthier you and bite-size bits of healthy motivation. Now let's dig in on the dish with Rebecca Huff.
[00:00:51] Rebecca: Well, I'm excited to have you here today. Tamara,. I wanted to get into the topic, but first I wanted to ask you if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with what you do.
[00:01:04] Tamara: Sure, thank you, Rebecca, for having me. So my name is Tamara Fyke and I'm in Nashville, Tennessee. My work is with Love in a big world, and this is work that I've been doing for about 25 years.
So in 1996, I founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching character education and have been doing that work ever since.
[00:01:26] Rebecca: Wow. And so you do that through two different websites. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
[00:01:32] Tamara: Sure. Sure. So I do that through a variety of resources. One is love in a big world that provides a curriculum for pre-K through 12th grade, around character education, teaching 24 character traits that everyone can agree on regardless of their background.
So things like correct. Honesty kindness, caring, responsibility, respect, and breaking those down into kid-friendly terms. So kids can understand what they mean. And so adults can understand what they mean too, so we can set. Behavior expectations for all of us and then build healthy and strong positive communities.
We also provide professional development for teachers and youth leaders in different nonprofit organizations, coaching and consulting with those leaders. Throughout the school year and then a variety of classroom resources. So we've got music and videos and posters and all kinds of fun things. And addition to that work in March of 2020 in response to the pandemic, I started music, city, kids and music city kids is an online educational show that teaches is fitness, health, arts, STEM music, literature.
Online. So that is the second website music, city kids.
[00:02:52] Rebecca: That's cool. And so music, city, kids.com. Is it available to parents who homeschool as well as other educators?
[00:03:02] Tamara: Yes, absolutely. All of our resources are available to schools, nonprofits, and homeschools.
[00:03:09] Rebecca: Very nice. Okay. So we all kind of, I feel like most parents know. Oh, what character qualities are, and, kind of have an idea that they do want their children to have instilled in them some good character qualities.
But I think maybe a lot of us parents haven't possibly heard of the term social emotional learning, and also how it relates to emotional intelligence. So can, before we really get into things, can you explain to us a little bit about what those terms mean.
[00:03:42] Tamara: Sure. So emotional learning as we define it with love and a big world is helping kids identify what's going on in their heads and in their hearts. So they can use their hands to build up and not tear up. Plain and simple. If you look at castle.org, that castle is the collaborative for academic, social, emotional learning.
They have a very long definition of SEL and, they identify five core competencies and those are, self awareness, self management, relationship skills. Responsible decision-making and social awareness. So those are five core competencies. And then with the work that we do with live in a big world, we break those down into our 24 character traits.
We map them because as you can tell, those five competencies are, are very big and encompass a lot and have extensive definitions. And so we want. Provide manageable chunks of information, so people get it. So the large umbrella of social emotional learning can include everything from, MTSS, which is a behavioral intervention system in the schools to violence prevention, drug and alcohol abuse prevention to all of that can fall under social, emotional learning, anything that's considered for student support services and whatever we do to help students succeed in school and beyond.
With emotional intelligence or helping people. Understand more about how they relate to one another and how they can pick up on those social cues.
So we hear the term emotional intelligence rather than social, emotional learning, particularly in corporate settings. And interestingly, it's the corporate folks that I know who talk most about the need for these soft skills. That's another term that you'll hear interchangeably with emotional intelligence and social emotional learning, are these soft skills.
So how do people respect authority. How do they show up on time for work? How do they get along with their colleagues? So these are all part of the same idea of helping people understand what's going on in their heads and in their hearts. So they can use their hands to build up and not tear down.
[00:05:54] Rebecca: Very good explanation. And just to take that a step further, because I get people who ask me this a lot, because I do focus on mental health, and people will ask, why, what does that have to do with, healthy living? Why are you discussing these types of things? Well, one, I think all moms care about this, but can you explain to us why parents and educators should value these skills for their students and children as part of a healthy lifestyle?
[00:06:28] Tamara: Yes, I will try my best Rebecca, because it's every right. I mean, it's all interconnected. And I think, for the longest time we have not paid as much attention to mental health and wellness, particularly of young people. And so now, as a result of the pandemic and understanding the impact of the trauma that all of us have experienced, we're looking at it.
How do we find our way out of this trauma? How do we build resilience in kids? And if you look at the center for disease controls, and SAMHSA, the substance abuse, mental health services administration of our government, they define trauma as a health risk, and trauma is anything that interferes with our physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, wellbeing.
So imagine that even before COVID we have all experienced trauma, whether it's divorce or alcohol abuse in the family, death of a loved one. I mean, the list goes on and on and in education, we talk about those incidents, especially if they occur in childhood as adverse childhood experiences. So, what we're looking at is we want to counteract those negative influences with positive.
So we want to decrease the risk factors and increase the, The resilience factor. Right? And we re we define resilience as the ability to bounce back despite adversity. So all of us want our kids to thrive. We all want our kids to know that they can bounce back because life isn't fair and it's going to throw them many curve balls along the way.
So we want them to have the strength that they need to not just sit and stew in that negativity, but to bounce back and be stronger for the experiences. And that's where the mental health aspect really comes to play. And, and with kids, we have to help them. First of all, identify their feelings. So somebody said something mean to me,
how does that make me feel? Once I process how I feel, then I can just. A correct response to that person. So yeah, if my guideline is kindness, treating others the way I want it to be treated, I can say, okay. They said something mean to me, it hurt my heart, made me feel sad, but I'm going to choose kindness anyway.
And so there's, you see the interplay between the mental and the social aspects of it, and then it all comes to be. And so as a mom, I'm a mom to have three kids and mine are 23, 18, and 15 . We have lots of big changes going on with our family right now, but this is something that we've talked about throughout their development.
And many times I'll ask them. So how's your heart today? And they'll look at me like, what are you talking about? And especially with my, my boys, and they're just like, I don't know, mom, like, I don't know what you want me to say, but it triggers a response in them to get them to reflect. If even for a moment, how am I really doing it helps them take inventory of what's really going on in their world and how it's impacting their emotional well-being.
[00:09:48] Rebecca: Wow, such a great answer. That is exactly what I wanted to know. And so I feel like the outcome is better for children who have these skills who have this learning, and obviously it can help. Like you said bullying and even suicide prevention, anxiety and depression for children. So I feel like these skills are very important to children and their mental health and their health in general.
So now that we understand how important this is for our children's health, can you tell us, are these skills being taught in schools? And if so, is it adequate?
[00:10:31] Tamara: Yes, they are being taught. They're being taught implicitly and explicitly. And I'll define that in a minute. And is it adequate? No, not yet. I mean, it takes, it takes all of us coming around our children to help them be successful. So, when I'm talking with teachers or training teachers. And they're looking at me like, you want me to do what?
With social, emotional learning. I've got all this other stuff on my plate. I can't take on one more thing. I explained, you know, you're already doing this. Whether you call it out or not, whether you bring attention to it, highlight it or not. You're already doing the work of social, emotional learning just by nature of being a teacher, just by nature of being a caring adult in the lives of these children.
If you look at Bandura's social learning theory, this was back in 1977, he established this, this research that basically said that we model ourselves after those words. You might've heard of the Bobo doll experiment. The kid watched the, the show with the Bobo doll being punched in, and then would that child act out in the same way?
Bandura has proven over time, that's one of the ways that we learn. So just by nature of interacting with a child as a teacher or a parent, you're teaching them how to interact with other people, how to take responsibility for their actions, how to regulate their emotions, especially when they're angry.
So we're teaching all of these things. What we're helping to do with social, emotional learning is bringing. Clarity to what's actually going on because kids are really smart. They pick up on, they pick up on everything, you know, they don't miss, they don't miss it. So when we call attention and say, you know, I'm feeling really upset right now, so I need to go take a walk..
Or I'm, I'm really sad that that happened between you and your sibling. And so I'm going to go and take a few quiet moments and think about how we're going to handle this as a family. We're teaching regulation, we're teaching kids, first of all, it's okay to be angry or it's okay to be sad, but it's not okay to just react in the moment we need to stop and think through how we're going to respond to different situations.
So that that's part of the implicit. Now the explicit, Dr. Maurice Elias out of Rutgers university has studied this work for, for decades. And he has said that we need at least 75 minutes of explicit SEL instruction per week in schools, is that breaks down about 15 minutes a day. When we have that kind of explicit instruction about this is what it means to self-regulate, or this is what kindness looks like.
This is what responsibility means. Then kids have a framework, they have an understanding, have a schema for looking at their words and their actions, as well as interpreting the words and actions. And then they can respond instead of just react. So this work is happening in schools at an increased rate, especially now, with all the legislation that's occurred within the past year or so.
There's been, I think at least $130 billion allocated toward the work of mental health and support for kids in schools. Does that mean that, does that mean that everything's being done with fidelity? No, but at least we're starting the conversation, right? At least we're about the work of making sure that we're addressing the needs of the whole child.
[00:14:16] Rebecca: Okay. Naturally parents are modeling this and teachers and other adults, I guess, in, in children's lives are modeling this. And then in addition to that, we need at least 15 minutes of dedicated instruction to attaining these skills.
[00:14:35] Tamara: Yes. Exactly.
[00:14:37] Rebecca: Awesome. So for example, let's say a homeschool parent, or, maybe it's summer break.
How do parents go about, you know, maybe we understand what certain character qualities are and we maybe get a little bit about , emotional learning, but we're not sure exactly how to translate that and educate our own children. Maybe we really want to take responsibility for that. What, what kind of, what are the best ways for parents or other adults to educate their children in these areas?
[00:15:12] Tamara: That's a great question. There are several strategies that we, as adults can employ in this work. One is through stories. Finding stories and then talk with our kids about those stories. So whether they're picture books or folktales, fairy tales, even novels taking the time to read those with our kids and ask questions.
What happened with this character? Why did that happen? What are the choices that this character made? How did it impact the other characters in the story? So using the power of story, because that's one of the ways that we learn, and not only stories as books, but stories as movies stories as television shows, co-viewing with our kids, watching what they watch and then talking about it.
What kinds of things happened in that show? Why did that person do this? Why did breaking it down, having the conversation. And that would be the second I would say is making sure that we're intentional about having conversations with our kids. We get so busy, just running. You know, from one thing to the next and pausing taking the time, dinner time is a great way to connect, having that conversation and being intentional about it, not just how was your day, but at digging in to what's really going on and, and letting kids know that we are a safe place for them to share their heart, that they can bring anything to us that we're not going to judge them, but we want to be a safe place.
Another would be. Encouraging the practice of journaling and reflection. So providing a notebook or providing a journal and saying, okay, here, this is yours. Write down some things and then promising them unless they want to share. I'm not going to read it. This is for you. , I remember when my daughter was little.
She was going through a lot of things. And so we set up a conversation journal where I would ask a question and she would respond and then she would ask a question of me and we passed it back and forth and we didn't even have to talk about it, but it was, it was our place where we met on the page. And so that was, that was a great tool for us.
So these are just some strategies that we, as parents can use to connect with our kids in this way..
[00:17:33] Rebecca: I love that idea of that journal, passing it back and forth. That sounds like it's, it would be easier for a child to open up. Sometimes those face-to-face conversations can be kind of hard. And the audio books is where I think a lot of our family conversations come from.
I have six kids and we've listened to so many audio books over the years. And, discussing, you know, character qualities from those, especially young adult historical fictions, one of our favorites. And there's just so much you can discuss when there's a character, you know, going through something, especially like the world war II era.
There's a lot of stuff there. But yeah, I love that idea. And so it sounds a little more doable when you explain it to us like that. So I know that you've created a lot of content and a lot of, Curriculum for the specific purpose. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works and also where people find that??
[00:18:28] Tamara: Sure. So the curriculum is something that I'm really proud of because it's fun, first of all. And I just think that's another way that we engage kids in this work is by meeting them in a place of fun and, and letting them know that, learning doesn't have to be burdensome. It can be an adventure. So the curriculum is full of stories and conversation, questions, journaling prompts, where I, I tell people all the time, if, if kids, especially boys want to respond with a picture rather than.
That's okay. The idea is just to give them a place on the page where they can process what's going on in their head and in their heart. There's also a host of interdisciplinary activity, so there's art projects and composition, starters and drama, skits, and prompts for how you can give back to your community because service learning, getting involved in
giving back to those in need in your neighborhood, or just for a cause that you believe about is a great way for kids to practice their social, emotional learning skills. Games at play is another fantastic way to practice these social skills in a very low risk environment. So when kids create their world, when they're playing kickball or hiding, go seek, you know, think about it.
They're practicing what it means to get along with their friends. They're practicing those social skills. They're practicing those relationship skills and they're learning about fairness and honesty. And, but we're, we're creating a microcosm of the big world for them in this play environment so they can, they can practice this out.
So the curriculum is full of all of these things and, we have it pre-K through 12th grade, as I mentioned, and it can be found at Love in , a big world.org. Folks who are in multi-age settings. We also have banded curriculum, so we've got grade level specific. And then we have like, K 2, 3, 5, 6, 8. So there's lots of different tools that can be used to help conversations.
[00:20:39] Rebecca: Nice. And so parents, particularly homeschooling parents could choose, like, if they have say a ninth and an 11th grader, they could choose kind of one that would work for both students.
[00:20:53] Tamara: Yes. Yes. So high school, we have our learning from poetry series, which is based on poems out of the collection. Poetry speaks who I am, and it's a multi, Multicultural approach to the poem.
So, I mean, we've got black writers and Asian writers and Jewish writers and white writers. I mean, like everybody's represented it. Yeah. And then again, it follows that same format out of read the poem together together, have some conversation. Journal, which in this series is having the kids write their own poetry and then do some multi-disciplinary hands-on projects.
The other series for high school that we just released within the past few weeks is called in their words. And it looks at a historical figure and a quote from that person. And again, the conversation and the journaling. But the thing that I'm really excited about is the connection to current events. So looking at these
historical figures and making a direct tie to what's going on in our world today. Cause we've got a lot happening and kind of seeing our it's kind of a dual approach, right? So we're seeing history through our perspective here in 2021, but we're also seeing 20 21 through the lens of these historical figures.
And in some ways, realizing that what we're going through, isn't new, people have been dealing with these issues for hundreds and hundreds of years. And in some way that I think gives us a lot of hope for what we're experiencing.
[00:22:31] Rebecca: Wow. Well, the curriculum sounds fascinating, both the poetry and the historical figure for the high school.
That would be my area, but I did look through some of your curriculum for younger students as well. It, I know you have samples available, so parents and educators can get in there and really see what you have available. So I thought that was really nice of you to include samples so people could see kind of, is this going to work for us or do we need to maybe go for a different level?
Awesome. Well, can you remind us one more time of your two websites where they can find you if someone wants to reach out what specific questions?
[00:23:06] Tamara: Sure. It's loveinabigworld.org. Or musiccitykids.com. And if our listeners would mention this podcast, you'll get special pricing. You can also email me at [email protected], and we'll make sure you get that discount.
[00:23:22] Rebecca: Awesome. Thank you so much for that. And I'll try to make sure to put that, a link in the show notes. So if you're listening and you want to go back and find that link, I'll include it in the blog post as well. So thank you very much, Tamara. I've enjoyed talking to you. I think it's a wonderful thing that you're creating!
[00:23:38] Tamara: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share today.
[00:23:41] Announcer: Thanks for listening, please rate and review so other people can learn about this podcast. Find out more about sleep hygiene, eating healthy tasty recipes, zero waste lifestyle, and lots more on that organic mom.com. Help us spread the word. Be blessed and stay healthy.
- After a tough year, schools are axing virtual learning. Some families want to stay online. Erin Richards, USA TODAY https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/06/05/covid-online-school-in-person/7523002002/
- McLeod, S. A. (2016, Febuary 05). Bandura – social learning theory. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html