Teaching with the Heart in Mind

By Katie Kiser

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible refers to the heart?  It is evident that our heart is just as important to God as our head knowledge and wisdom.  At All Belong, we know that God cares about all the students in our classroom, and we know that God cares deeply about the whole person. We seek to serve not only a student’s mind, but also the student’s heart. As educators, we are trained to impart knowledge on our students, but do we know how to guide our student’s hearts?

Considering this, we use a framework to understand all students, created uniquely in God’s image, called Head and Heart. Part of this framework includes understanding a student’s “head,”—memory, attention, higher order thinking, and more. Likewise, this framework puts an equally high emphasis on understanding a child’s “heart,” by looking at their social and emotional competencies such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. By focusing on both a student’s mind and heart, we seek to understand each child uniquely so that we can help them grow into who God has created them to be.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, we see the need to intentionally teach social and emotional learning. However, it is not enough to simply teach these skills. We must also reinforce, practice, and embed these tools into our daily routines.”

Throughout the course of my career in education, I have observed a shift in our focus as teachers. Not only are we concentrating solely on students’ minds, but we have also started to see, through much research, the importance of social and emotional learning and how it fits into our work as teachers.

So, how do we teach social and emotional competencies? These skills can be shared with our students through our classroom discipleship, guidance, and practices.  Just like we would if we were teaching a core subject such as math or reading, we explicitly teach these social and emotional competencies to students and allow opportunities for practice throughout the day.

Michelle Garcia Winner

One tool that can help teach social and emotional competencies is Social Thinking®, developed by Michelle Garcia Winner. During my 13 years as a teacher, I have used the many Social Thinking® tools in my classroom to help students understand their emotions (zones of regulation), learn how to problem solve (size of the problem), take another perspective (social behavior mapping), and more!  I found these tools to be a great visual and concrete way to help kids learn and grow.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we see the need to intentionally teach social and emotional learning. However, it is not enough to simply teach these skills. We must also reinforce, practice, and embed these tools into our daily routines.  As Christian teachers, we may assign students to memorize scripture to help shape their spiritual selves; similarly, we can also equip students with the social emotional tools they need so that, when the time comes, their hearts are prepared to respond appropriately.  In other words, when we equip students with tools and skills they need, we should do so with the heart— “the well-spring of life,” in mind. (Proverbs 4:23)


Katie Kiser is a Teacher Consultant at All Belong.  

Not part of an All Belong Member School?  Learn more about how All Belong can come alongside your school, equipping you and your community to build classrooms and communities of belonging for students of all abilities.  

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