Graduate School

School Sponsored Emotionally Responsive Practice

Posted by Dara Eisenstein on March 29, 2012

Teddy BearsSix public schools have come together to sponsor joint professional development and consultation for staff members engaged in Emotionally Responsive Practice (ERP) in their classrooms. P.S. 38, P.S. 146, C.S. 66, P.S. 49, P.S. 306 and CPE 11 are a diverse group of schools who all previously participated in an two-year collaboration between the Department of Education and ERP at Bank Street for intensive study of ERP for K-3 classrooms.

When the two years came to an end, principals, teachers, and social workers from these schools were eager to continue theirwork. These school leaders were open to working together and pooled their resources to make training for new staff and advanced training for returning staff possible. The administrators of ERP schools meet monthly with ERP director Lesley Koplow, to talk about process and progress of implementing Emotionally Responsive Practice techniques within their individual school communities.

Implementation stories from the “School Sponsored” network of schools are as different as the individual school communities themselves but they are all powerful.

One assistant principal made a proposal to develop a new school in her underserved areas of the Bronx that used ERP as the core philosophy. One principal changed school policy to allow parents to bring their kindergarten children into the classroom each morning, instead of leaving them in the noisy, overwhelming cafeteria. Teachers shared their stories of implementing Emotionally Responsive Practice techniques with us and with one another, alleviating isolation and inspiring them to integrate ERP into many areas of classroom practice. Use of Teddy Bears in the classroom, news of the day, cozy corners, emotionally responsive literacy, expressive arts, and self-and-other curricula became the norm in these public schools.

When Haydée Dohrn-Melendez‘s kindergarten class thought about leaving their school for a week at break, they felt the usual combination of excitement, worry, separation anxiety, and the need for clarity and reassurance that changes in routine bring to young children. Haydée’s children decided to address these issues by building a giant bed with blocks so that their Teddy Bears could stay all together during the school vacation and not feel lonely. They decided to put a book on the bear’s pillow, just in case the Teddy Bears wanted to remember the children, who often read to them. 

When children can work together to create symbolic solutions to shared emotional experience, they grow cognitively as well as socially. When schools can work together to support the emotional well being of children and staff, everyone benefits.