I then handed a rope to the athlete and asked him to demonstrate to the class how to play tug-of-war. He struggled with the rope as he debated how to pull the ends in the same way that teams would do it in competition with one another. Soon his classmates began calling out, "He can't do it alone! He needs someone else!" I thanked him for his cooperation, and moved on to the class socialite.
My charge to the young lady was to ignore the presence of her audience, while demonstrating what it means to be social. She looked puzzled by the assignment, while classmates called out, "She can talk to herself!" I asked, "When was the last time you saw someone talking to herself and thought about what a social person she was?" They all laughed. This was followed by further debate and discussion about what it means to be social. I found that while many students can readily identify "social" when they see it, it's a much more difficult concept to define or to understand.
As we strive to teach social understanding, we cannot assume that our children or students understand the meaning of being "social," or the value or need for socialization! Many of them, especially if they have a form of autism, may need help developing specific strategies for understanding and interacting effectively with others, although we also need to be .
I remember a time when I tried to pry one of my sons away from his secluded reading spot by inviting him to "socialize with the rest of the family." When he looked at me quizzically, I explained that I wanted him to "be social" for awhile. When that also was met with a blank look, I realized that although I've devoted my career to teaching and promoting "social understanding," my own son didn't really know what the word "social" meant! My other son came to the rescue by defining "social" as "interacting with others," which we followed with an engaging conversation about the term, accompanied by specific examples.
I invite you to share your definitions of “social” on our Facebook page or on my Social Incites™ blog. And I encourage you to have discussions with your family, students, colleagues, and others regarding what it means to be “social” and “socially successful!”