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Posts tagged ‘Social Emotional Learning’

Let It Be

Emotions are an important part of being human. We don’t want to ignore or suppress them because they provide valuable data about what is happening inside ourselves and the world around us. Yes, I know, I have said this before. However, with the holidays around the corner, there is this notion that we must feel a certain way… mostly happy, joyful and excited. Well, what if that’s not the case for you or your students?

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned meditation teacher and New York Times bestselling author, explains how we are conditioned to believe that painful feelings are “bad”, and pleasurable ones are “good.” For many people, it’s often easier to avoid grief and sorrow, while only embracing pleasant sensations like confidence or love. A solely focus on pleasurable emotions can negatively impact students’ healthy development.

Social Emotional Learning means developing students’ and adults’ capacity to accept and learn to embrace all of their emotions, including the unpleasant ones, so they can experience a more enduring sense of happiness and life satisfaction. Even during the holidays. Especially during the holidays.

Educators have a critical role understanding what kinds of emotions students experience in the classroom, how they differ among students, and how they influence their engagement and performance. However, the teacher’s job is not to make students feel happy at all times, but to create the conditions where students can recognize and manage their emotions in constructive ways. It is better for students to learn how to cope with disappointment and failure from a caring teacher, than to have no tools to deal with these feelings. Ready or not, feelings are coming our way.

As you start the holiday celebrations, allow yourself and your students to acknowledge and appreciate whatever feelings this time of year brings. If it is sadness, grief or anger, approach it with compassion. And just let it be.

Wishing you a peaceful holiday season and a New Year filled with purpose.

Reference: Salzberg, S. (2017). Real Love. The Art of Mindful Connection. New York, NY: Flatiron Books.

Dealing with change

I have recently started rereading Carl Rogers’ classic book On Becoming a Person (1961). It has been a refreshing read, as I reflect on how we (educators, administrators, and parents) deal with the changes and challenges that the Common Core Standards bring to our lives, and how we can use Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) to support that change. Here are some quotes that resonated with me:

“The more I am simply willing to be myself, in all this complexity of life and the more I am willing to understand and accept the realities in myself and in the other person, the more change seems to be stirred up.”

i_am_proud_to_be_myself-3979This idea of accepting the realities in myself starts with one of the core competencies of SEL, self-awareness; the ability to assess your feelings, know your strengths and weaknesses, and identify your interests and values, so you can maintain a well-grounded sense of self-confidence. According to Rogers, being yourself is a first step for change and growth. Implementing the CCSSS is going to ask us, at least, to reflect on our teaching practices under the lens of these new expectations and check how aligned those two are. In other words, before thinking that you have to start from scratch because your students will be evaluated on a different set of measures, identify the strategies that are part of your practice that already support 21st century skills.

“It is a very paradoxical thing-that to the degree that each one of us is willing to be himself, then he finds not only himself changing; but he finds that other people to whom he relates are also changing.

change is a processChange can be energizing and a motivator for improvement, but it can also be frightening. The uncertainty of accountability demands for schools, as well as the worry about how well students will perform on the new assessments, or any other concern you might have about the CCSS is going to affect how you feel and deal with this change. One strategy that I have often used with students is having them write how they feel about a particular situation. Try it for yourself! Considering that the transition to the CCSS is beyond your control, this exercise might help you clarify your fears and worries about this change, and reframe your worries to focus on the potential positive outcomes for your students.

When we engage in innovative processes, in our work or our personal lives, we are often faced with uncomfortable situations that might be stressful. Changing or developing instructional practices is a process that takes time; it is something that happens over time when supported by cycles of action, analysis and purposeful reflection on the practice. Dealing with this process of change asks teachers to use another of the SEL competencies, self-management; the ability to regulate emotions to handle stress, persevere in overcoming obstacles, and monitoring progress toward goals. Does this sound like the skills you are trying to develop in your students?

SEL is a process to develop social and emotional competencies in children, and also adults. In this transition to the CCSS, teachers and school leaders are faced with the challenge to respond to these new demands. This transition won’t come free of concerns and stress about how to best support student learning. In this process, remember to notice and identify your emotions, clarify your concerns, and set up realistic goals to improve your teaching practice. Change is a journey, not a blueprint (Fullan, 1993)!

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