How We Are Transforming Educator Preparation
FuelEd is a unique training program that equips teachers and school leaders with the social and emotional competencies necessary to build relationships in schools.
A relationship with a consistent and caring adult, known as a secure attachment, provides the conditions for optimal learning and development. Proven outcomes of such relationships include self-regulation, communication skills, emotional balance, flexibility, and the development of insight, empathy, and morality – basically, all qualities we hope for in our children, our neighbors, ourselves. Unfortunately, half of all children lack these foundational experiences and are therefore at a significant disadvantage in the classroom and in life. Worse yet, while research has shown that a teacher-student relationship can compensate, promoting higher academic achievement, greater social competence, and less behavioral problems in students, current educator preparation focuses narrowly on educators’ content knowledge and instructional skills, excluding a critical dimension of effective teaching and learning : an educator’s ability to build positive relationships.
FuelEd was founded to solve this problem. FuelEd’s mission is to improve student outcomes by equipping educators with the social and emotional skills essential for building relationships in schools. FuelEd believes that if educators are equipped with essential social-emotional competencies, then they will remain in their professions longer and develop stronger relationships with all school stakeholders. In turn, these relationships will drive students’ academic, social, and emotional learning.
Our goal is to ensure that every adult in schools is emotionally available, emotionally attuned, and emotionally healthy to build secure relationships that drive learning and development. To do so, we use Workshops, Small Groups, and One-on-Ones aimed at developing educators’ knowledge of the science of relationships, their relationship skills, and the self-awareness necessary to building relationships:
The foundation of FuelEd’s program consists of 16 hours of Workshops that combine developmental psychology, counseling psychology, and social neuroscience into an interactive format utilizing skills training, discussion, and activities. Workshop topics include: student attachment styles, adult attachment styles,
FuelEd’s interdisciplinary workshops explore questions such as how the brain develops in the context of early relationships, how student behavior is influenced by their relationship history, and most importantly, how the brain continues to develop through relationships – which is where the power of educators lies. Educators also have the opportunity to practice key relationship skills such as empathy and genuineness that research shows promote secure attachment.
Finally, FuelEd’s workshops help to enhance educator’s self awareness. Much like their students, educators too have personal histories of relationships, which shape their thoughts, feelings, and behavior in relationships with others. In fact, studies have shown that adults differ in their ability to develop consisting, caring relationships with children according to their own relationship history. Those who experienced secure attachments are more able to respond sensitively and appropriately to a child’s needs than adults with insecure attachments in their past. But research has also shown there is an exciting exception to this rule: when adults develop an awareness of their personal stories and experience subsequent secure relationships, they are able to successfully build secure attachments with others regardless of their relationship histories. Thus, if educators are to promote secure attachment in others, they must be securely attached. This means their training must include, not only the science or the skills of relationships, but an exploration of the self.
Educators engage in further exploration of challenging emotions inherent to their profession in small group processing environments. Currently, educators lack productive outlets for dealing with anxiety, doubt, or frustration. Providing opportunities for educators to examine their own feelings and how these feelings impact their teaching will assist teachers in regulating negative emotions that might otherwise impede student learning and teacher wellbeing. The objectives Small Groups are as follows:
One-on-Ones provide educators with personalized support to explore social-emotional challenges in the safety of a relationship with a FuelEd Counselor. After all, experiencing a secure relationship is a key ingredient to becoming a secure attachment figure. The objectives of One-on-Ones are:
While training as a therapist and working on the book, The Social Neuroscience of Education, in 2010-2012, FuelEd’s founder Megan Marcus recognized parallels between a therapeutic milieu and classroom environment. Though both are interpersonal learning settings, therapists are trained to leverage relationships while teachers are trained only as technical instructors. Thus, in 2012, Marcus pursued a Master’s in Education, Policy, & Management from Harvard University to explore whether translating elements of therapists’ professional training could fill this gap. In July, 2012, FuelEd was incorporated and piloted a 3-day training with 10 teachers at Houston’s YES Prep, Southwest campus. It was so beneficial that teachers convinced their administration to implement a school-wide, yearlong training in 2012-2013. Since then, demand for FuelEd’s program has demonstrated a significant gap in the market for training that focuses on the human elements of teaching & learning. Now, in its third year, FuelEd is working with nearly 600 Houston educators.
Since every human being in the educated world comes into contact with an educator, leveraging educators’ abilities to build relationships can have a powerful ripple effect throughout the community – not only alleviating social problems such as delinquency, abuse, and violence but increasing pro-social behaviors such as social responsibility, cooperation, and altruism. Watch the video below to learn more about FuelEd: