Every year, teachers craft pedagogical practices and critically examine how we connect with our new kids and their needs. Considering curriculum learning, student's personal growth and well-being, and how can we motivate students intrinsically, not extrinsically? Are we providing students with reflective time to self-manage many expectations from well-being for personal growth, academics and family responsibilities (virtual) simultaneously?
From our Board Strategic Commitments and Plan of:
Be Community: Embracing diversity and promoting equity, we are guided by Catholic social teachings to create welcoming places for all.
Be Well: Honouring the dignity of every person, we care for and support the well-being of all.
The process of building community and relationships always begins in September. As a result of COVID, the students could not socialize together from March until the start of the school year in September. Reentering the school with many precautions while starting the academic year with rows of students masked up to collaborate and develop their skills. I have always focused on building a community of trust and students' self-identity to personalize learning. Upon returning face-to-face in September, it was evident that students were more disconnected. Throughout the process, I had to reflect on meeting students' emotional needs that shaped their learning and metacognition.
Our community was built up by understanding the students' identities and values, focusing on their strengths and learning styles. Learning should not be stressful! Community readiness included interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships to communicate, collaborate, create, critically think, and develop characters to be caring citizens. Being able to deal with all the differences within our community and to become active participants in learning rather than passive consumers. By identifying the feelings and the executive functions during the process, we focused on the assets, not the deficits of metacognition. It was important to identify what they are doing well and how they can connect to their next steps. Through self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness, the students could advance their own personal goals.
Academic loss was not the focus. Putting the students in a passive role of being fixed was not the goal! Getting students to look at their own data, accelerate their own needs, and be proud of their own growth was crucial.
We unpacked what stresses them when they are learning. What makes them joyful? What do they think about grading and assessment? What conditions make students feel joyful and trustful to share what is on their minds? I focused on creating an environment for students to fill their cups of self-confidence, self-management, self-awareness of how they learn. What are they hopeful for? Creating a space where mistakes or failures are not punishments; they are learning opportunities.
Virtually or face to face, how are we allowing students to reflect and think about self-managing their learning?
The students embarked on a journey of transparency, building relationships of trust, and taking action towards their learning. It was not about teaching SEL (Social Emotional Learning); it was about creating an environment where stress can be managed and how it can be relevant to their lives. Additionally, I needed to keep in mind to assure students of their self-direction, and I needed to apply humanity to teaching and students' learning experiences to make them equitable. Science consistently demonstrates how learning is supported by emotional skills. It was crucial to integrate social-emotional learning into everything we do.
Our approach began by co-learning about System 1 and System 2 thinking and sharing evidence of our everyday interactions and decision-making through System 1 and System 2 thinking. I first learned about Systems Thinking through http://www.rotmanithink.ca/about-us.
Developing a social awareness of interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts on many controversial topics was crucial. The goal was to keep a safe space when discussing uncomfortable topics to promote SEL opportunities during sociopolitical discussions. In discussions, all political events are connected to the curriculum expectations and students' interpersonal relationships, knowledge building, and understanding of themselves and others.
Virtually lots of time was given to self-regulate synchronously and asynchronously of not feeling alone and the trust that I understood their feelings by immediately responding to their written or oral reflections.
By moving online from mid-April to June, the focus was surely on the home environment of critical learning effects and the out-of-class experiences. There are so many responsibilities, it has become everyone's responsibility. Our goal is to humanize; this is everyone's responsibility; mine, the other students online, and the parents. Everyone had a role to play. I had to focus on how to keep their joy and talents.
Maintaining an asset-based learning community with so many responsibilities placed on students. The students amazingly managed babysitting and helping siblings with online learning. Assisting with household responsibilities during synchronous and asynchronous learning sessions. Working with parents and other family members in the same room. Some had the privileges of working quietly and keeping self-motivation with little distractions. The distractions of technology while completing work ranged from phone calls to online chats and games. Using PearDeck daily reflections assisted with maintaining self-management while doing online learning. This transition worked because they co-planned about their needs as a team.
It has been a year of exploration with many posts unpublished due to ongoing discoveries, unlearning, relearning and reframing practices due to various occurrences during our learning processes. It was important to develop the competencies for growth and success through SEL. SEL must be contextualized, integrated with academic learning, and reflecting every time through social management self-awareness and self-management, in order to connect and give feedback to each other. SEL is not a program designated for a certain time!
Yes, it takes time, and we need to embrace it. It is all day, every day, not a prepackaged curriculum. In the framing that we do every day, SEL maximized the impact. Students needed more deconstructed opportunities to develop their own goals, identify their strengths, and determine how they functioned collectively. It was our goal to learn more about how Social Emotional Learning builds just communities of respect, lasting relationships, and critically examines root causes for collaborative solutions that contribute to the personal, community, and social well-being of all participants.
Building community is essential for transformative learning. How are we supporting transformative SEL affirming the assets, the experiences, identity, acquiring knowledge, identifying and managing emotions, maintaining relationships for responsible and caring decisions?
I will end with this Hip Hop theatre of emotions from a student about her year: