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Posts from the ‘SEL’ Category

SEL All Year Long

If there was ever a time to focus on the SEL needs of our students, teachers and families, it is now. This pandemic has not only highlighted the racial and economic inequities in the US, but also the need to redesign our classrooms to better support our students and teachers.  

My new favorite hashtag is #SELyearlong. No matter the format in which you start the school year, we cannot think that the first six weeks of school will be enough to create the rich (virtual) classroom environment needed for learning. Our focus should be on reconnecting with students and families, and creating the space where meaningful relationships and learning can take place all year long. 

While many times, I focus on the specific HEART skills that students need to learn and practice, today I want to focus on how we create the social and emotional conditions that make learning possible. There needs to be trust among the members of the group, physical and emotional safety, and a sense of belonging, purpose and connection, if we want students to engage in meaningful learning. This is still true if we are meeting our students over Zoom. 

4 Social and Emotional Conditions for Learning

1. Students feel physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe, and are treated equitably.

Many students have probably lost loved ones during this pandemic, and they will need help processing their feelings of loss and grief. Other students will be fearful or stressed, which are not helpful emotions for learning. Use these resources from the Morning Center for Teaching Responsibility to help your students discuss their emotions and experiences during the pandemic, and check out this video about equitable discussions. 

2. Students experience challenging and engaging instruction.

Even in a distance learning format, we need to incorporate productive instructional strategies that will increase the learning capacity of our students. One key strategy is connecting what you are teaching with your students’ lived experiences. Students’ ability to focus and pay attention has been greatly impacted by this pandemic, and the need to stay home for extended periods of time. When the academic content is connected to students’ lived experiences, students are more likely to engage and be motivated to learn. Bring their knowledge into the Zoom room! Here are some ideas from Zaretta Hammond. 

3. Students feel supported and connected to the world around them.

Given the isolation that many students have experienced during this pandemic, it is important that we prioritize building relationships in our classrooms. Use classroom circles to build community. Even in the online world, we can create a sense of belonging and community with our students by using SEL routines such as classroom circles. Use these circles consistently, so your students know what to expect and can anticipate this time of sharing and connection. Here are some tips from Edutopia. 

4. Students and adults are socially, emotionally, and culturally competent.

When you start the new school year, don’t shy away from engaging in conversations about race and racism. For students to develop a positive identity, we need to discuss racism and racial injustice. Although these are difficult conversations, this is part of our responsibility as educators–to call injustice when we see it and educate ourselves, so we can better serve students. Check out these tools from Teaching Tolerance. In addition, educators need to take care of their own needs. We cannot support students, if we don’t support ourselves. Self-care needs to be part of your SEL plan for the year! Practicing mindfulness, going on regular walks, eating a healthy diet or watching a favorite show can help you maintain the level of energy you need to face the next few months. Use the HEART in Mind model to reflect on how you practice your own social and emotional skills. And put it on your daily to do list: Take care of myself. Everyday. 

Lastly, communicate with families. Since many families will be supporting students’ learning at home, educators would benefit from regularly communicating with parents. Families need to know the school’s expectations, grade level objectives, and classroom routines in order to effectively support their children at home. By engaging them early in the process, they can become partners in surviving this stressful time. Here are some resources to work with families. 

Update on Teaching with the HEART in Mind

In case you were wondering… this pandemic slowed down the publication of Teaching with the HEART in Mind. But I have good news! The manuscript is currently being edited, and the book will be published this winter! I can’t wait to share it with you. 

Equity Centered SEL

Based on popular demand, I will be sharing one resource that can help you center your SEL work in equity in each post. While the 3 bridges to an equity centered SEL can be a starting point to understand the necessary shifts, the work is complex and we will need to pull as many resources as possible to make this work happen. Here’s the first resource:

My Racial Equity: A Guide to Racial Literacy. My Racial Journey is a 10-week, guided curriculum aimed at helping us challenge the ways we participate – often unknowingly – in racism by developing basic knowledge and skills about race. Developed at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development and with the Office’s Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program. 

Need help?

I’ll be taking a break in August to rest and get ready for a busy school year (aka, everybody still at home 24/7 party). As you get started with the new school year, let me know what additional content, resources or training you need. Since I will not be traveling to work with schools, I’ll be able to offer more online training. Let me know what you need. I’d love to hear from you!

Crossing 3 Bridges to Center SEL in Equity

One thing has become clear to me over the last few weeks—creating a kind and tolerant society will not bring about the necessary changes to end inequity and racism. We need to intentionally develop an equity lens in our SEL work, if we want to influence and transform the behaviors and structures that have fed an unjust system. Dr. Dena Simmons says “If we truly care about the future of our young people and our nation, we can no longer be passive about racial justice. We can no longer walk away, bask in our comfort, and ignore the way racism is killing us and destroying our nation.”

If you are teaching SEL in your classroom or supporting educators to implement SEL practices, you may be wondering what to do and how to do it. How can you support yourself and others to use SEL as a vehicle to build more inclusive, caring and equitable learning communities? 

If you have been teaching SEL, it does not mean that you have been doing it “wrong”. It means that the work we have done until this point, teaching SEL skills and infusing SEL in our teaching practices, is not enough if we want to create social change and opportunities for ALL students to grow and thrive in a just society. 

I would like to appreciate Dr. Tia Barnes, Mrs. Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, and Dr. Shannon Wanless for their thoughtful feedback on this framework. Thank you for your support!

Crossing 3 Bridges to an Equity Centered SEL

  • SELF – From celebrating diversity to developing collective responsibility. When we think about the competencies related to self in the HEART in Mind model, honoring emotions and electing our responses, we have many helpful goals–generate ways to interpret our emotions, develop a positive identity, learn to manage our behavior, among others. These skills help students and adults develop a better understanding of who they are as humans in a way that they can appreciate the unique differences between individuals and celebrate diversity. This is good, but it is not enough. If we stay at this level, we are missing some opportunities to understand and explore why social expectations for emotional expression and management are different based on your gender, race or sexual orientation, among others. If we want to go deeper, we need to develop cultural awareness and critical consciousness, so we can understand how stereotypes and prejudices are generated, how we all perpetuate them everyday and how we can confront our biases. We need to support our students and adults to develop a positive racial and ethnic identity, and help white students and adults build the emotional capacity needed to face racism with a sense of collective responsibility and humility. That is to say, I see the value of living in a diverse world, and I am responsible for the collective wellbeing of my fellow humans. 
  • RELATIONSHIPS – From nurturing inclusive relationships to creating equitable relationships. Building classrooms where students show empathy for one another, and have skills to peacefully solve conflicts seems to be a commendable goal, right? We teach students to appreciate the emotions and experiences of others, we practice active listening and teach students to communicate assertively. Again, while these competencies are important to develop inclusive relationships, they are based on the premise that students’ sociopolitical and cultural context doesn’t influence their ability and that of others to establish and maintain these relationships. By ignoring the context, we are missing the challenges that students of color experience when trying to establish equitable relationships and the structures (some inside schools) that create these inequities. Our empathy and relationship building work needs to analyze how power and privilege influence social dynamics, white privilege and the reasons behind historical and systemic differential treatment. Students and adults need to develop their capacity to effectively communicate through different cultural and social contexts with fluency and humility, so the relationships that are created in schools and communities are not only inclusive, but also equitable. 
  • COMMUNITY – From building engaged communities to activating social transformation. I’ve written in the past about the importance of transforming with purpose, the last competency in the HEART in Mind model, and cultivating a “call to action” to improve our communities. In your SEL work, you may be working with students to identify challenges or issues at school that need improvement, and helping them get engaged with problem solving and implementation. When we think about centering our “why” in equity and racial justice, we move from engaging students in their communities to cultivating their activism and capacity for positive social change. This means creating space for students to see the consequences of the current social, economic and political system on white people, people of color and other minority groups, and engaging them to act on the injustices and inequities they observe inside and outside their communities. In this process, schools will be cultivating youth’s ability to speak up, question the status quo and confront injustices. Creating school structures that support collective responsibility and equitable relationships will allow our youth to lead the way and bring about social change. 

Crossing these 3 bridges may be difficult. You may question their need, feel uncomfortable or wonder how to get it started in the middle of a pandemic. No matter where you are, start by reflecting on what you need to do to cross these bridges yourself. We, educators, need to do the work first, before we can lead our teams and our students to do the same. Go back to the reasons why you decided to engage with SEL work in the first place, and think about what would happen if you could give that gift to all students, no matter their race, ethnicity, immigration status or sexual orientation. What would you do? Dare to be courageous. The work starts with us.

For more resources, check out these other posts: using your EQ to fight racism, preparing for difficult conversations about racial inequity, educating for freedom, and teaching more than “little virtues”

Hard on Barriers

My friend and colleague Michael Eatman, coach and founder of Culture7, said on a panel exploring the emotions of racial inequity, “you have to be soft on people, and hard on barriers.” As we are all trying to engage with the current events and find ways to be helpful, this is an important message—we have to focus on fighting racism and inequity, while supporting people to wake up. 

These unprecedented times call for the SEL field to consider how the social and emotional skills that we hold dear can serve as a vehicle to listen, question our own biases and learned beliefs, and transform this reality with a clear sense of purpose. You can use SEL to fight racism, remove barriers for learning, and develop your own social and emotional capacity. At this time, it is also necessary to use SEL principles and practices to dismantle systemic inequities and stand up for justice.  Read more

Teaching SEL by Modeling

We are starting week 6 of distance learning in California with parents and teachers still struggling to keep up with the new normal that COVID-19 has created. Families are learning how to work, learn and be together—all the time. It is not easy. From meltdowns over math problems and increased stress over job security, to grieving loved ones, emotions are running high in most families. Is that true for you? Read more

Can’t My Kids Just Get Along?

No matter how much your children like to play together and love each other, the likelihood that they are fighting harder and more often since the shelter-in-place started is pretty high. It is understandable. They are together ALL the time with fewer opportunities to have their own space. And while it is nice to ask older siblings to play with and entertain the younger ones, their patience can also run out. While conflicts among siblings are to be expected, they can be very triggering for parents who are trying to meet their work responsibilities and feel preoccupied about the health of loved ones. Siblings fighting = upset parents. Can we change that equation? Read more

COVID-19 Resources in Spanish

For Spanish-speaking families – I joined Dr. Aliza’s Vida y Salud Facebook live program to discuss strategies to help families navigate the complexities of the shelter-in-place. Check out the video, and share with families that may find it helpful. Stay safe, stay home.

Staying Connected and Sane during the Shelter-in-Place

The spread of the coronavirus is asking a lot from families, from homeschooling and work from home schedules to quarantine mandates and social distancing. It is a lot for families, parents and children to handle. This week, I talked to HITN Learning about strategies that parents can use to cope during these challenging times. You can access the video here (conversation starts at 2:08) or keep reading for a summary of the main take-aways. Read more

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