I’ve been advocating for emotional literacy to become an integral part of education for years. The line that I often use is “Happiness is a skill that can be learned, and we have completely forgotten to teach the most fundamental class in schools.” School districts in Florida are now accountable to provide five hours a year of mental health and emotional literacy education. This gives us the greatest opportunity to give our students tools to grow into healthy adults who can contribute to our state’s economy and transform our society. However, if this is not done correctly, a greater mental health crisis could be on the horizon.
As a psychotherapist, throughout the years I have armed my patients, friends, and those interested in listening with the tools to overcome their difficulties. When patients or friends begin to practice the tools given regularly, they go beyond overcoming their difficulties. They begin to reconnect with their true self and search for a life of meaning and purpose. I often wonder what the impact on our future generations will be, if we help children develop their talents, gifts, and equip them with the adequate tools to overcome adversity and become members of our society and economy with purpose and value.
So, what is Triumph Steps doing to make sure that emotional literacy does not become one more failing education fad?
First and foremost, we actively advocate in Tallahassee and D.C. with policymakers and the Florida and U.S. Department of Education for emotional literacy to be a funded and integral part of education. Just like our children have math, science and language arts on their schedule, emotional literacy must have a specific time to be taught. We cannot continue to ignore having a period assigned to address the long list of required comprehensive health education courses that our Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(n) mentions, such as, substance use and abuse; teen dating abuse and violence; family life, including an awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence and the consequences of teenage pregnancy; prevention and control of disease; mental and emotional health; Internet safety; nutrition; personal health; concepts of community health; and environmental health. All these topics could easily be addressed in a well-funded, researched and structured emotional literacy class.
Our advocacy efforts have resonated in the halls of the Florida Department of Education , featuring our goals and purpose in their media latest press release, “What They Are Saying” ahead of the State of the State address. We were featured along Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, State Board of Education Chair, Andy Tuck and many other spearheading changes in education.
Besides advocating for a specific time on the schedule to deliver the content, we also advocate for funding. The most fundamental class that addresses our current mental health crisis cannot be left to be delivered with free resources and no experts.
Secondly, we teamed up with a group of mental health and curriculum experts to develop the content that children need to master to grow up mentally fit. It is known that a math curriculum is developed by math experts, and so is history, science and language arts. Why would the most fundamental class in addressing our current mental health crisis be any different?
Third, we know that school initiatives and reforms tend to succeed or fail depending on how they are experienced and received by educators and parents. To address this very important issue, Triumph Steps counselors regularly meet with parents and teachers to address the importance of this class. Professional development for educators, as well as parent personal growth seminars, continue to be enhanced with much success and positive feedback from participants.
This month Triumph Steps had the honor to present in Tallahassee to over 150 active members of the Legislative PTA conference. We presented among Florida Senators Powell and Harrell; as well as key players from the Florida Department of Education, such as Chancellor Jacob Oliva. We are being heard because we are meeting a need.
Triumph Steps is happy to be an instrument of this very needed movement. Share this blog and join us to make history!