Building Responsibility Through Emotional Response-ability

Erin Joyner, our brand new Middle Grades Counselor, talks about the second Building Character and Community (BCC) trait everyone – age 3 – grade 8 – will discuss during October – RESPONSIBILITY!

October’s Building Character and Community (BCC) trait of focus is responsibility. In schools, responsibility naturally shows up through academics. Students have a responsibility to complete their work and homework, remember their materials for school, and of course, show responsibility and ownership for their behavior and choices. Our outdoor education program provides an opportunity to show responsibility in a different environment; also for materials, space, and with others. We encourage students to develop organizational systems that support their executive function and guide them throughout the year to a healthy level of academic responsibility.

School counselors always look at students through a social-emotional lens. As such, when we discuss responsibility, it’s vital to consider the responsibility we have to our feelings, thoughts, and actions. We all face difficult moments and situations throughout the day. It’s possible to train our brains to respond in ways that are productive and help mitigate big feelings. At The Children’s School, we intentionally talk about respect first and responsibility second because we understand that respect for self and others is an important precursor to being able to take responsibility for our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Respect and responsibility are also two character traits that we draw on when learning social problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.

In order to build healthy conflict resolution skills at any age, we must take care of ourselves and others. We must also take responsibility for our own feelings and responses to others. One way to build this respectful, responsible, self-reflection is to practice “I” statements. An “I” statement is exactly how it sounds – a clear description of how someone is feeling, rooted in their own personal experience. It demonstrates an understanding that we truly cannot ascribe feelings to others, or understand someone else’s perspective without a conversation. Instead of “you hurt my feelings,” an “I” statement would read “I was hurt when this happened.” This simple shift makes the conversation more productive and helps everyone feel that they are heard. At home and in school, it’s important to practice “I feel ___________________ when __________________” to teach students to recognize their feelings and to be responsible for them.

Ultimately, it is possible to connect through and during conflict. It is our responsibility, as adults, to show kids how.