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INTERVIEW

Ayelet Giladi - SEL is important for everyone, from children and parents, to soldiers and refugees

Israeli early childhood expert reflects on her own SEL development and her work in the field

Ayelet Giladi at Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills

Ayelet Giladi at Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills


 
Much of the discussions at the session Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills has centered on the importance of the education system in delivering social and emotional learning, but for Ayelet Giladi, manager of Early Childhood programs at the Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it is just as important to engage families.

Many participants in the session have diverse and dynamic backgrounds, but few can boast a story like Giladi’s. From joining the Israeli Army as a commander at eighteen, becoming a Hebrew teacher for soldiers who struggle with language, to now, where she uses Social and Emotional (SEL) skills to combat child abuse and to help families across the social, religious and cultural boundaries in Israel and beyond, Giladi has not had a conventional career path.

Her time in the army was formative; Giladi commanded a unit of soldiers with little writing or reading ability, and she taught them Hebrew. She says she found herself “using a lot of social and emotional skills that I didn’t know I had in the army.” Soldiers often did not want to be there, and they did not want to take part in lessons. Sometimes they threw chairs at her.

“It was their way of expressing themselves, but being an 18-year-old girl, trying to control 20-year-old, big and masculine men. It took a lot of skills,” Giladi recalls.

She believes experiences like this were important in her own personal development. They opened her eyes to how much influence she could have in other people’s lives by using SEL skills.

Giladi’s experience in the army, akin to a trial by fire in terms of teaching and using SEL, meant she transitioned well into her work using these same skills to work with parents of young children in Israel. She works with families “at risk” – those with children who may not have adequate early life upbringing – to give parents the tools to help their children, and give them the early-life SEL skills they need to reach the first grade.

Giladi works with a diverse group of families – Arabs, Jews, Druze and Bedouins, and many religious or Orthodox families. Helping such diverse groups bring challenges. For example, “Orthodox families could have ten or twelve children, which means they might not all get the attention they need,” and she works with some mothers from the Muslim community who were married very young.

“Mothers aged 14-16 don’t know themselves so well, let alone how to be a mother,” explains Giladi.
One way of helping is to guide “mothers and fathers.” by teaching them how important it is to “speak to babies as soon as they can – to play with them, take them out, be with them in the house, rather than just in front of the TV.” This fosters SEL development and it helps prepare the children for relationships with other people in their future.

While her work is primarily focused in Hebrew-speaking Israel, Giladi emphasizes how important it is that her programs are taught in Arabic. With so many Arabic-speaking refugees currently seeking safety in countries across Europe, she believes that the work she does is a gateway to helping them and their host countries. “When you give refugees, who are staying in an unknown country, tools in their own language, you can connect them with the country... If you help them like this, they will appreciate what the country is doing for them.” It approach will help the children, and make the families feel welcome, and want to contribute even more to their new communities and countries.

Giladi’s inspirational experiences taught her that “empathy is very important in the teaching of SEL skills, and it’s an important SEL trait to have.” Having empathy for the most vulnerable people – refugees, young mothers and poor families who lack the privilege of a good education – and coming to their aid “helps the individual, helps the families, and it helps the communities.”


Ayelet Giladi was a participant in the Salzburg Global Session Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills part of the Salzburg Global series Education for Tomorrow's World, hosted partnership with ETS. More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/566.You can follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag: #SGSedu

08.12.2016 Category: FACES OF LEADERSHIP, EDUCATION, IMAGINATION
Chris Hamill-Stewart