It’s back to school! Cries of joy, tears, stress, anguish… A flood of emotions is about to surge into the classrooms. Scenes of joy or sorrow, experienced for generations, but not always well received by the institution. “Historically, the school is wary of emotions, recalls the pedagogue Philippe Meirieu. Keeping them at bay was even one of the founding principles. Emotion, in the minds of his fathers, is affectivity, sensitivity, family, while knowledge is rationality. ” It does not matter that the school of Jules Ferry has resorted to the emotions to exalt the nationalist feeling, officially, it was necessary to “ban ”.
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Another paradox underlined by the sociologist Omar Zanna (1): the secular institution was inspired by the model of the Church where the “Sinful body”, in the grip of the sin under the influence of the emotions, is perceived as a disturbing element. Entry into CP illustrates, even today, this desire to master it. “If, in kindergarten, the child develops motor skills, this learning is already at the service of the primary school where he will have to remain seated and silent in front of the teacher who dispenses the knowledge”, observes the sociologist.
Learn to recognize emotions
The place given to emotions at school has nonetheless evolved over the last decades, under the influence of humanist psychology, new pedagogies and, more broadly, a social context of liberation of the body and of personal development. Discoveries in neuroscience have also validated the intuition of educators that positive emotions consolidate learning.
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However, it will be necessary to wait until 2015 for empathy and emotions to fully integrate national education programs. Since then, kindergarten teachers must explicitly teach students to recognize emotions: “Martin is angry”, “Julie is sad”, “Mathieu is happy”.
“The objective is to enable them to identify their emotions but also that of others in order to better tame them and be able to enter into a relationship”, underlines Omar Zanna, who points out, however, the absence of “Specific learning methods”.
No “road map” in elementary school either. But that does not prevent Stéphanie Fontdecaba, a school teacher in the Aude, from addressing the subject after a training that she herself financed. “With other teachers, we first work on the vocabulary to name the emotions and, once the students have acquired this lexicon, we do exercises in class”, tells this “educational activist”.
With her “emotiometer”, she probes the state of children after recess, in particular, to enable them to identify and regulate their emotions using a technique of. “External visualization”, which consists in representing each emotion by an object to put it at a distance. Otherwise, she said, “They are too restless to work”.
Lack of training
Later, in college, the question is mainly addressed in moral and civic education (EMC) but rarely from the angle of emotional education, regrets Bertrand Jarry (2), principal education advisor (CPE) and former. An observation shared by Laurent, professor of history and geography in Île-de-France: “I try to do it through freedom of expression, especially around cartoons. I explain to my students that you have to control your emotions and place yourself at the level of the law, but I feel that this is not enough ”, recognizes the teacher, who admits not feeling ” competent “. “This is a delicate question, in the order of psychology, and I am not trained. “
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If, in the first stage, teachers sometimes have a little head start because they “Must take charge of the students as a whole, there is no training or reflection on the skills necessary for this teaching”, deplores Bertrand Jarry. The specialist also regrets that this educational approach is only transversal. “Emotions are never approached as a specific object of work and nothing is said about how to decline the subject in class. “
A subject that is still debated
Result: teachers do a little according to their inspiration by drawing “In a jungle of content ranging from positive education to meditation, through things more related to learning”, note, a little skeptical, the CPE. A diversity that also worries Philippe Meirieu. School, he says, “Risk of falling into” emotionalism “, this current which makes emotion the very driving force of pedagogy, even if it means putting knowledge in danger”.
Thus, the place of emotions at school is still debated. If, for the pedagogue, the institution has a “Major role to play”, we must not “That she flounders in emotionality without reflection”. Amira Karray (3), lecturer in clinical psychology, believes for her part that we cannot “educate” in this field by isolating it from the rest. “Talking about education is already taking into account emotion, which is one of the determinants of learning. It also supposes that the teacher tames his own affects, which is not obvious. And then we cannot format children: on the contrary, we must start from their unique experiences to help them find their place in school. “
For Omar Zanna, “Education in emotions is above all envisaged to calm the school climate and promote learning, while full content is needed to allow students to acquire skills for social life”. The stake is all the more crucial in his eyes as children spend less and less time with their parents at home, a traditional place of emotional education, and more and more on social networks, where the emotion overflows.
Do emotions have an influence on learning?
Several studies have shown that the influence of mood on learning depends primarily on the nature and complexity of the task.. Positive mood would make it easier for children to perform in problem-solving tasks that require a closed solution such as arithmetic operations, for example, but not in processing information such as understanding a text.
The child’s emotional experience varies, too, depending on the mood induced before exercise. When it is rather pleasant, they say they enjoyed the activity more and were more interested in it. However, unpleasant mood increases in children when exercise seems difficult to them. (4)