When my niece Jenna was three years old, she chopped off several inches of one side of her hair with a pair of scissors. My mom was visiting my sister and her family at the time, and she asked Jenna why she had cut her hair. Jenna responded, precociously, “Because I wanted it to look like yours, Gram!”
This story captures the essence of Jenna: doing things her own way and always being ready with a witty retort. In her nineteen years, she has also faced certain academic and emotional challenges. She was fortunate to have access to educational supports that allowed her to learn to overcome those challenges in some cases and to work with them in others. Jenna spent a year at community college and is now in her second semester at a college away from home.
We recently talked about how she is navigating her transition to this new environment using social-emotional skills, many of which are included in A New Foundation for Readiness proposed in KnowledgeWorks’ recent publication, The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.
Babies born this year will have already graduated college by 2040 and be entering the workforce. Will they be ready? Based on a series of in-depth interviews with employees at cutting-edge organizations, as well as site visits to workspaces and strategic foresight research into current trends, The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out explores how career readiness may be redefined to better prepare students for an uncertain future. Learn more.
Can you describe a specific time you remember being supported socially or emotionally in school?
I remember being at school when I was really young. If I couldn’t express what I wanted, I would get really upset. They would let me pitch my fit, and afterwards, they would help me talk through what had happened and help me understand and explain what I might be feeling.
How do you think the supports you received have helped you as you have transitioned to college away from home?
I’m able to know when I’m getting overwhelmed and can take a break and just watch Netflix and calm down. I also know how to do what needs to be done. I have no issue going to the registrar or to a teacher. I will go and bug you and get done what I can’t do on my own. The schools I went to gave me the skills to go to somebody when I need something.
Part of me doesn’t want to accept that I still need help sometimes. But the stresses I am experiencing here are different than ones I had before, so I can’t handle them all on my own.
Do you have an example of a time you asked for help?
My brain was tuning my professor out, so I went and talked to him. We agreed that meeting with a counselor could help me deal with everything and stay focused, so I started seeing a counselor at school regularly.
How are you using your social-emotional skills in social situations?
I came here thinking I was going to be hanging out with a bunch of people. I am very close with one of my roommates, but I haven’t found more people that I want to hang out with. There are times I don’t feel like I fit in here and that I want to leave. But I try to remind myself that the stability of staying will probably be good for me.
It’s definitely not been the easiest transition of my life. I live with people who don’t know me, and they can’t always grasp the array of things going on with me. My family always helped other people understand. Being here, I have to be the one to try and get people to understand that I can get a little erratic.
I keep it in check pretty well most of the time. But when it’s too much, my roommate and I will go off campus, we’ll cook together, we’ll go to her parents’ house, we’ll just try to take a break from things. It’s hard because I don’t have three separate spaces – home, school and work – it’s all just one, and everything is happening all at once, and I’ve had to learn to adjust to that.
Do you think the types of social-emotional supports you received would be helpful to most kids?
Definitely something similar. They may not need as much as I did. A lot of people don’t know how to go to the root of the problem. You can either handle it right then and there, or get other people involved and turn it into this giant thing that’s not related to what’s really going on.
Any advice for educators?
I think more kids need to learn these kinds of coping and emotional skills, and they need to continue to teach them to us in college. Here, you’re on your own. Unless you go and seek the help, you won’t get it, and a lot of people don’t know how or when to do that.
At exam time, they bring in animals to help relieve stress. I love it, but it’s not really teaching us how to deal with the stress. At work, every day is exam day, and unless every office has a puppy room, we need to learn how to manage things on our own.