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Posts from the ‘Teaching with the Heart in Mind’ 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!

3 Things to Grow a Resilient Heart

Last week I spoke with HITN Learning about how moms can nurture their resilience to deal with these challenging times (if you missed the conversation, check out the video.) During the event, I asked these moms “how are you feeling?” and was not surprised to read their answers—overwhelmed, anxious, scared… and the most popular: stressed.   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

Purpose Builds Resilience

A few years back, I agreed to help organize an “SEL Day” at a local school. The organizing team did not seem to have a clear objective for the event, but I agreed anyway thinking that I could be of help. As the team started making decisions about the event, I became increasingly frustrated—I thought there were better ways to present information, engage the participants or select speakers. Since I did not want to question the group’s decisions, I became disengaged and lost interest. Then, as we were getting closer to the day of the event, I realized that I had forgotten the very reason why I had agreed to support this initiative: I wanted to support this group in pursuing something that was important to them, and that aligned with my own values. Read more

Making Space for Every Story

There are many stories that find no light in mainstream media; many books, movies, and pieces of art that will never be seen or appreciated, even less paid for. As a society, we choose the stories that are worth sharing and celebrating, and ignore the rest. In many cases, these unheard stories come from people who have been discriminated against because of their race, gender, social class, home language, ability, or sexual orientation amongst others. This prompts us to question—who is telling the story and who is in charge of the narrative. Read more

SEL Starts with the Adults

The importance of supporting young children’s social and emotional growth in early learning settings, such as child care centers and preschools, is well established. It is part of their “core business”, something they do day in and day out. There is, however, an important aspect of SEL that is not considered part of this work—the need to support early childhood educators’ social and emotional capacity. Read more

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