Getting the Hearts of our Educators to Beat as One

November 8, 2021

By Ken Spero & Nick Kovalcik

The quantity of evidence supporting the effectiveness and benefits of utilizing simulations in development amazes us. Based on facts and experience, we understand the benefits of using simulations in high-stakes domains like aviation, healthcare, and the military. We would never send out professionals in those fields without allowing them to practice their skills in a realistic simulation first. However, new neuroscience and well-being research data is developing, indicating that simulations can be a valuable tool for addressing alignment, teamwork, and well-being. During the pandemic, we faced a one-of-a-kind and massive combined challenge of both talents and resilience. The combination of seclusion and stress has produced a challenging atmosphere, leaving a leadership skills deficit in the face of an unprecedented pandemic and its unfolding implications. At all educational institutions, this convergence of forces has resulted in widespread displeasure and increased turnover.


During this period, we have noticed with our clients that taking part in a simulation with coworkers yielded some exciting results. In simulations, participants face difficult decisions in a K-12 environment while cooperating with their classmates in a shared experience. This shared experience provides an organic opportunity to build a sense of intimacy and alignment while engaging in a branching narrative. The spontaneous conversations that occur as a result of the experience serve as a counterbalance to the inherent loneliness of leadership and a reminder that educators are not alone. It also allows educators to hear from their peers, gain different views on a problem, and, at the very least, gain a better understanding of stakeholder behavior, which is frequently a necessary but painful result in this environment. It has been intriguing to observe how simulations may help with skills, decision-making, well-being, and resilience. The level of comfort a leader has in making difficult decisions that not everyone will gladly accept and knowing that their team is aligned in thinking with them and that they are not alone “is priceless.”


Simulations are developed because they can effectively drive a narrative and elicit emotional responses from the audience. Their purpose is to make the participants feel linked to one another and put themselves in the other person’s shoes. A recent Wall Street Journal story highlighted some studies that we found very compelling, and it once again gives proof to back up what we have witnessed anecdotally. Dr. Susan Pinker, the author of the article “Storytelling Makes Hearts Beat As One,” highlighted how research demonstrates that listening to the same tale causes our heart rates to rise and fall in sync. “Our heart rate changes are not random,” said Lucas Parra, a professor of biomedical engineering at City College of New York and a senior author of the study. “The story drives the heart.” There is a clear link between people’s heart rates and the content of a story. This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting our brains sync up when we are in the same place, doing the same activity, or agreeing with one other. This evidence has important implications for us regarding the additional team-oriented benefits of participating in simulations in cohorts.


This study helps in demonstrating what SchoolSims is striving to do. The ability to have players in a simulation match their heart rates while participating in the sim story, on the other hand, can hint at some intriguing possibilities for connection among school administration teams. Even though they are separated, participants in our simulations share all of the highs and lows, delight and frustration, laughter and seriousness. Even when they are not in the same room, participants have reported experiencing this. Participants who use our simulations asynchronously go through the same scenario and make the decisions they choose, but they might still feel the same raw emotions due to the nature of the modality. They will tell their friends about it, and you will hear them recount how they felt and experienced similar things more than half of the time. Regardless of the outcome, everyone has a similar experience.


When you look at the results, it is clear that doing simulations in a group context has a significant impact. It encourages people to be open and honest with one another about their choices and why they chose them. Educators’ hearts begin to beat in synchrony and synchronize with one another at this moment. Even if the person next to you makes a different decision, they were affected in the same way before making that decision. Regardless of whether one’s heart leads them down a different path, everyone’s thinking process follows a similar course. We had a simulation event with CCOSA recently, and we were able to watch all of their emotions as they participated in our Disruptive Teacher scenario. The laughing appeared to be precisely timed from an observer’s perspective, but the intensity and irritation of another scenario could be sensed across the screen. Simulations allow everyone to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience that has a lasting impression on the participants.


Our goal is to align the hearts of educators, resulting in a greater chance for aligned decision-making in our schools, and simulations may be the key to accomplishing this.


SchoolSims Live Demonstration





Works Cited

Pinker, Susan. “Storytelling Makes Hearts Beat as One.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 9 Oct. 2021,