As posted in the Rockford Register Star, 11-17-15

Stop posting and start living your life. That was the message Lady GaGa shared to 200 teens last week at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Born This Way Foundation Summit at Yale University last week. She encouraged teens to stop counting their Facebook friends and Instagram and Twitter followers and start making real connections that include conversations about emotions and feelings.  That isn’t easy for teens, who are used to texting with emoji’s and posting 10 second Snap stories. Real conversations take time and work and ultimately involve taking a risk.

Earlier this year the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducted an on-line national survey of 22,000 teens who shared that they experience negative emotions at school on a daily basis. In fact, 75 percent of teens polled said that they feel stressed, anxious and depressed while at school. Conversely when asked how they want to feel at school, teens emotionally responded with words like, HappyEnergized Excited. So, how can a teen narrow the gap between stress, anxiety and depression and feeling happy? Talk it out.IMG_7809

The more teens are able to talk about how they are feeling the more positive impact this has on their learning, friendships, academic success and overall health, according to Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Ms. Rebsom, Director of Student Wellness and Engagement at Keith School agrees. She attended the Emotion Revolution Summit with me last week, and has started a program at Keith to get students talking, not only with their friends but with trusted adults.

Homeroom curriculum now includes topics such as sharing thoughts and feelings, making a positive impact in school and in the community, conversation starters about feelings, leadership skills and development, kindness initiatives and being a good person and role model. On Wednesdays, Keith has extended homeroom for 30 minutes, giving students more time to discuss and process these topics. One of the more positive things to come out of the homeroom discussions is a Random Acts of Kindness committee who anonymously does positive acts, writes motivating notes, and delivers treats to all high school students.
For me, knowing that there are trusted teachers at Keith who care about their student’s well-being makes it easier for me and my peers to share our feelings. One of the most important messages I was able to bring back from Yale was that teachers who are engaged with their students, and take the time to get to know them, create a positive school environment and thus their students experience more positive emotions. Each generation believes that theirs was the most difficult, and I believe that to be true for me and my friends, especially with the influence of social media. Somewhere along the line we have lost the ability to sit down and have a conversation about feelings. I am going to listen to Lady GaGa and stop posting, or at the very least take time to put my phone away for a few hours a day, and start living life.


Written by: Bridget Krysztopa