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Navigating with Heart

Navigating with Heart

As we begin to move from the chaotic and disruptive world caused by the pandemic, Wildwood School is embarking on a year-long journey of "Navigating with Heart"—honing our emotional intelligence skills to better serve our students, community, and ourselves.

Throughout the year, Wildwood is planning a series of speakers and events addressing how to navigate the “new normal” of a post-COVID world, examine the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on all of us, and  discover ways of strengthening our community.

To kick things off, Wildwood recently invited Dr. Marc Brackett, the Director of the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University, to speak with our community on how to be an emotionally intelligent parent. The core of Dr. Brackett’s message is the importance of being able to identify emotions and their nuanced definitions. 

"Our cognitive abilities, our creativity, the way we make decisions, our level of engagement, and our productivity are entirely influenced by our emotional state," Dr. Brackett said. "The better we are at recognizing and identifying our emotions, the better the strategy we can employ to deal with them."

For instance, the terms "stress" and "pressure" are often interchangeable in our vocabulary, but the words actually have two very different meanings. According to Dr. Brackett, "stress" is defined as having too many demands and not enough resources, while "pressure" occurs when there is something at stake that is dependent on your behavior. 

"Once you’ve figured out what you’re feeling, you’re one step closer to dealing with it effectively," Dr. Brackett said.

This approach can also serve students at all levels.

"Students' emotional needs are woven into the tapestry of their physical, social, and intellectual needs," Dr. Brackett said. "Academic development is not only an intellectual pursuit, but incorporates the body, the mind, and emotions."

Improving emotional intelligence is just one way of helping K-12 students recover from the pandemic and find health and support in the midst of mental health struggles. That said, implementing more emotionally intelligent teaching and parenting could provide far-reaching, positive change for students and communities. 

"By empowering students to develop their rational and emotional selves within the classroom as well as outside of it, schools can begin to address the student mental health crisis with a more holistic and multi-faceted approach, helping create resilient young adults that are equipped for college and life beyond," Dr. Brackett said.

One tool for helping identify emotions is the book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown. Selected as the summer 2022 reading for Wildwood faculty and staff, Atlas of the Heart explores eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. Throughout the year, Wildwood faculty and staff are exploring the book, chapter by chapter, with the goal of building a shared vocabulary in order to foster shared connection.

In addition, several parent/guardian discussion groups have also been planned, so that families can "navigate" this journey with us. More division-specific events for families of elementary, middle, and upper school are in development.

"This year is an opportunity to connect back with the emotions and feelings that we have experienced and will experience these next few years," said Associate Head of School Christina Kyong. "Our students especially need the tools to 'navigate' from a time of uncertainty and fogginess to a time of certainty and clarity, and as the leaders, mentors, and adults in their lives, we all have an important role to play in facilitating this."

  • Fall 2022