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Emotional intelligence and critical decision making courses can help middle and high schools

Once again, on NBC News, I saw scenes of students in a blood bath from two students in a stabbing spree in Pitsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 9th. I am happy that it is not Colorado, but really…should that have been a happy note?

Violence prevention shouldn’t be neglected if we want to prevent these blood baths that may arise from social and emotional learning issues. Schools today often neglect the need for students to be familiar with methods of conflict management and resolution as an alternative method to educating children, but a great method is being used by The Conflict Center.

It is beneficial for students, school administrators as well as teachers to incorporate violence prevention in the school system. This is not only because students will receive educational therapy about violence and its prevalence, but also the classroom will become a source for students to verbally express their attitudes, emotional language and knowledge about violence.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 20 percent of high school youth reported being bullied on school property while 16 percent reported being bullied electronically during the 12 months prior to the 2011 survey.

The Conflict Center’s Emotional Intelligence and Critical Decision Making (EICDM) classes became a training ground for students to become more aware about violence while curbing the prevalence of violence in their lives. The Conflict Center’s research provides a strong first step to violence-prevention. In fact, the school in which they piloted their method has expressed deep satisfaction with the center’s courses, in part because they become a supportive paradigm for their students. The relationship that can develop between one student and the instructors alone can significantly change that student’s life.

The EICDM classes are eight-week classes the cover the decision-making process, recognizing and weighing consequences, communication skills, types of power, conflict management, handling authority, the positive and negative consequences of anger, personal anger history, fair fighting, triggers and cool downs, problem solving and more. It is tailored to help each student asses their skills as well as how to recognize their emotions and manage them in non-violent ways. The most important feature of this class is the communications skills that students will learn to describe and vocalize their needs, wants and feelings in a healthy and productive way.

Three out of the four teachers that piloted the EICDM classes saw a positive correlation in students’ test scores, academic performances, and class participation. Meanwhile, all of the teachers showed that they spent either spent the same or less amount of time redirecting students’ behavior issues. Only one teacher had confessed to having some persisting behavioral difficulties with a student, which seems to be due to a disruptive family life for the student.

Though the students may not be aware of these things, the vast benefits are clear to us adults. Violence can be contagious, but so can safety and peace. The methodology of the EICDM class as a means to prevent violence is the way of the future. Even with one student’s affinity to the instructor, the skills to prevent violence before it starts will be contagious, and violence-prevention will be the new critical skill to learn in middle school and high schools everywhere.

With the Emotional Intelligence and Critical Decision Making class already in practice in Colorado with The Conflict Center, schools in the state should collaborate with The Conflict Center or any local organizations who offer these social emotional learning services. The Department of Education will serve well to incorporate violence prevention into the public school system. Only then, will we know that as a state and as responsible citizens, we are doing everything we can to prevent more bloodbaths, bullying and school shootings for the future.

For more information about the Emotional and Intelligence and Critical Decision Making classes, click here.

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First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.