Cindy Zahrte

Cindy Zahrte

How many of you have considered how students and educators are feeling these days? With increased accountability in the form of state-required assessments, with the emphasis on securing our facilities due to acts of violence and with societal issues like the opioid epidemic and poverty, negative emotions can impact how much students learn and how well teachers teach.

In a recent survey conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, 22,000 students across the United States were asked to describe how they feel in school. The top three words were “tired,” “bored” and “stressed.” When 6,000 U.S. educators were given a similar survey, “frustrated,” “overwhelmed” and “stressed” were the words used described to their days. Asking students or teachers to just ignore their feelings and “push through” emotions is not helpful. Rather, we must find ways to strengthen social-emotional skills so that both our students and our teachers can develop healthy relationships, compassion and a sense of purpose.

The Tomah Area School District is committed to developing programs which can assist our students and teachers in working with their emotions. Our staff has had training in Circle of Security, which is designed to help them understand when they are “emotionally drained” and in need of “recharging” and to more easily identify when their students may also be experiencing difficulty with their emotional state. Compassion fatigue is a real condition. Employers in many service professions where empathy is crucial − like nursing, social work and education − are looking for ways to assist their employees who may struggle with this type of burnout.

In addition, our schools cannot focus solely on academic achievement as the end-all be-all for our students. Social-emotional learning cannot be at the bottom of the list of things to learn. Social-emotional learning is a 21st-century skill invaluable at home, school and in the workplace. We can transform our school community by teaching students about their emotions and how to handle them effectively. This will improve academic achievement, result in less problem behavior, and increase student health and well-being. Life is not easy − adversity will cross every child’s path at some time. All students can benefit from acquiring skills which will help them cope with their hurt, frustration and stress when life gets tough or doesn’t go as they had planned/hoped.

In the upcoming year, the Tomah Area School District will be focusing on the development of a curriculum and activities to enhance the EQ (emotional quotient) of our students. When I was a teacher, I had a poster in the front of my classroom which stated, “Your I CAN is more important than your IQ.” That poster helped remind students that putting forth their best effort was more important than how smart they might be. We all know very intelligent people who haven’t fulfilled their potential due to an inability or unwillingness to apply that intellect. If our students don’t have an understanding of how to deal with their emotions − especially those which are negative − that lack of emotional intelligence can interfere with their success in life, hindering their achievement, their relationships with others and their success. EQ is as important as IQ, and it must be a focus of the work we do in our schools for both students and teachers.

If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, district administrator, at or 374-7002.

Cindy Zahrte is the superintendent of the Tomah Area School District.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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