This profile was prepared when Megan Marcus was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in .
The New Idea
Considering the fact that teachers spend more time with children than even the best parents can, Megan Marcus insists that there is something very wrong with how little we as an American society are prioritizing the emotional intelligence of educators. There is overwhelming evidence that the brain is a social organ that grows in positive social relationships such as friendships and marriages. It is no wonder then that teachers are the most important school-based factor in a student’s education and the teacher-student relationship is absolutely vital to growth, curiosity, and enthusiasm for learning. Children - especially those growing up in stressful, traumatic, or insecure environments and who experience a state of stress that impedes learning capacities before even entering the classroom - need teachers who can emotionally attach to them. But our training of and demands on teachers make this nearly impossible. Teachers are exclusively taught lesson planning, differentiation, and content. Nowhere are they encouraged to develop basic communication skills or explore their own interpersonal style, emotional health, or triggers, although these factors may have just as much impact on student learning as content knowledge and pedagogy. At present, customer service and sales representatives in the U.S. are more likely to get active listening training than teachers. This, Megan claims, “is pathetic and scary on a societal level.”Megan’s work with FuelEd shows that there is a way to integrate the development of interpersonal skills, self-awareness, and emotional wellbeing into teachers’ training and professional experience. Over the last three years, FuelEd’s 12-month programs and intensive short courses have directly benefited hundreds of educators and school administrators across some of the largest school districts in the country. Armed with feedback from participants, Megan can now prove that intervening in teachers’ social and emotional capacities directly and positively affects students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes, not to mention teachers’ own job satisfaction, and retention. Going forward, the FuelEd team is distilling its most effective content and interventions and piloting a blended-learning approach to empower graduates of the FuelEd program to transform their own school and, through their examples, educator preparation and performance more broadly.