We Are the Beloved

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Lilah walked toward Sophia and said: “Let’s go Sophia, so we can be best friends again!” Sophia tried to catch up as both young girls ran toward the spring toys. Lilah stopped and waited for Sophia and said: “Hold my hand, Sophia!” Lilah extended her hands to Sophia as they walked through the woodchips swinging their arms up and down. Lilah said: “Let’s go, run Sophia!” They ran towards the spring wooden transportation toys. They stopped at the blue airplane toy. Lilah grabbed the handle to get on the airplane as she adjusted herself she said: “Get on, Sophia!” Sophia grabbed the handle and got on the airplane. They began to rock themselves back and forth. Sophia said: “Let’s go mommy!” Lilah responded: “Come on daughter!” Sophia asked: “Where are going?” Lilah said: “To Disneyworld!” Sophia then said: “Go faster mom!” “Faster than the world!” “Higher in the sky!”

If this observation (recorded by FPU student Aurora Rojas) does not excite you then, perhaps you should not continue reading this article. The joy of their sharing play and friendship is one example of the great importance emotional intelligence holds in the life of children, as well as adults. Emotional intelligence is a set of skills associated with monitoring one’s own and others’ emotions, and the ability to use emotions to guide one’s thinking and actions (Salovey & Mayer 1990). Emotions impact our attention, memory and learning; our ability to build relationships with others; and our physical and mental health (Salovey & Mayer 1990). Developing emotional intelligence enables us to manage emotions effectively and avoid being derailed by confusion, frustration or anger.

Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships and are more empathic. They also regulate their behaviors better and earn higher grades. What about adults, you may ask?

For adults, higher emotional intelligence is linked to better relationships as well as more positive feelings about self and others. Do individuals and society together benefit from strengthening emotional intelligence? Absolutely!

In the School of Education and throughout Fresno Pacific University, we must be concerned for the whole individual (our student) if they are to succeed in our programs, the demands of their jobs and what comes their way in life. We attempt to equip them with skills to develop emotional intelligence as well as academic and professional knowledge and the desire to include God and his work in their daily responsibilities. We embrace the belief that we are called to service and we attempt to model this in our teaching and in our interactions with our students.

The Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development is designed so students can understand growth and development in children from birth through eight years of age. Our graduates depart our program well prepared for careers in early childhood education. In addition, a great number of them continue their education at FPU and steer themselves toward advanced study in teaching, special education, school counseling, school psychology and school administration as well as the ministry or marriage and family counseling. Some continue into doctoral work and credit FPU as the catalyst for their career goals. It is thrilling to see our graduates enter and excell in their career paths as many stay in touch over the years.

My years of individual scholarship with students in our local public schools has been both rewarding and exciting. Such work has often been complemented by sabbatical leave as well as Provost Research Grants. My focus has been the study of school children who experience difficulty both in social and academic areas. I share my results via written articles and presentations at professional educational conferences locally, statewide and nationally. Always I have been pleased to represent FPU in such endeavors. While doing so, what do you suppose I have heard time and again from school officials, classroom teachers AND parents of children involved in any study I have conducted? It has been overwhelming respect, support and appreciation for our university!

My efforts today to help these young students better understand the difficulties that plague them in school pertaining to expectations placed on them in the classroom and in friendships/relationships are like looking through a glass window at myself 60 or more years ago. So much of my interest and desire to know more of the factors facing students in general or special education is due to my own experiences of unpreparedness and feeling out of place. As with countless students today, my family experienced financial and relationship issues with consequences involving moves to secure employment opportunities. Each move meant a new community, new school, new church and new friends to attempt to make.

Here are five skills commonly used to increase emotional intelligence that classroom teachers can use in their teaching:

  1. Recognize emotions in oneself and others
  2. Understand the causes and consequences of emotions
  3. Label emotions accurately
  4. Express emotions in ways that are appropriate for the time, place and culture
  5. Regulate emotions

I plan to continue work in our local schools with students in need of specialized and small-group instruction in these skills. School administrators and classroom teachers have asked for more opportunities to have my wife, Sijmontje, who recently retired from classroom teaching in special education, and myself in their school. The two of us feel called to the work, and qualified as well.

The work is blessed. How do I know this? Because several times during past years following the conclusion of teaching I have been alone, looking at instructional material or writing notes, and I hear a voice: “These are my precious children, Peter!” Initially I was frightened and surprised as I looked around and no one was present. Then it dawned on me! It was him! I asked aloud if it was him the first time I heard the statement, but I received no response. I believe I have heard similar statements two or three times since the initial one and they are each the same: “These are My precious children, Peter!” I really will not be too surprised to see him sitting in class one evening when I’m teaching college students or at some school working with young children.

Thus my reason for the title of this article: We Are the Beloved. You and I and others in this world are The Beloved…all of us. For years now I have read, studied and attended spiritual retreats based on the life and work of Henri Nouwen. In his writing and his decades of teaching and living his life as a priest in the Catholic Church, he was frequently asked to speak about his understanding and experience of God. Nouwen’s answer has been taken to heart by many, including myself: “All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved’.” To know God, Nouwen writes, is to know that we are beloved—beloved before our birth, beloved regardless of our successes and failures and beloved even in great suffering and anguish.

God has revealed himself to humanity in Jesus and in return Jesus has revealed himself to us, in our heart. Perhaps if we are fortunate enough, like Lilah and Sophia all of us might one day travel to visit Disneyworld!