As teachers, we’ve all dealt with days that are particularly tough in the classroom. Unfortunately, we seem to be increasingly faced with teaching in the days and weeks that follow a local or a collective tragedy. For nearly two weeks, Northern California has been ravaged by devastating wildfires — the deadliest in California history. For many at Teaching Channel, the Bay Area is home, and we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can help our friends and neighbors. From making a donation to volunteering your time, if you’re looking for a way to help, you can find a number of great ideas here and here.
Whether local, national, or international in scope, times of crisis can have a significant impact on our students and our classrooms. While the impact is more obvious when students are in direct proximity to the event or personally involved, large-scale national crises, often accompanied by heavy media coverage, can be equally difficult to navigate. The resulting stress and anxiety students — and teachers — bring into the classroom in response to a crisis can affect teaching and learning.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This Won’t Be Easy
Important conversations never are. But our students — and colleagues — learn as much from what we do (or don’t do) as what we say (or don’t say). The events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia are likely weighing heavy on your students’ hearts and minds, just as they are on yours. You haven’t had the opportunity to learn their names, set up a structure, or lay the foundation for learning this year, but you can still create a space for your students to begin to unpack race, face history, and grapple with the lasting legacies of the past.
Does social-emotional learning really make a difference for at-risk students? In Part Three of our series on Social and Emotional Learning, Daniel McCutchen, a recently graduated student from Austin High School in Austin, Texas, joins Tch Talks to discuss his experiences in an intentional SEL-dedicated course. Daniel is not only a former learner, but also attends national conferences and presents on the topic with his teacher. Learn how SEL helped Daniel adjust to the demands and expectations of high school, to prioritize the most important things in his life, and to develop life skills that he is able to apply in a variety of circumstances.
How would you describe your perfect classroom?
I imagine you’re thinking about a classroom where deep learning happens because your students feel supported, understood, and inspired; everyone gets along, respects one another, and manages their emotions and behavior with ease.
Maybe you’re picturing an oasis of calm or a classroom that runs like a well-oiled machine. All of your students are responsible and accountable and you’re wrapped up in a warm cocoon of “Teacher Zen.”
Sound impossible? Well, maybe just a little… But when you have resources and support, it’s definitely a bit easier.
Whether you want to incorporate social and emotional learning into your classroom or explore SEL as a dedicated class — we’ve got the tools for you!
How do we help students to move beyond their own perspectives to understand the lives of others? How do we challenge them to deeply understand another person whose life and experiences differ greatly from their own? How do we cultivate empathy, compassion, and even love across the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and disability?
These questions lie at the heart of social justice education.
To create a truly equitable society, we must be able to empathize with experiences we may never share. We must break down “empathy walls” to transform our society. But how do we do so?
Theater in the history classroom provides one possible answer.
I learned a new word: kuleana. It’s a Hawaiian word that means one’s personal sense of responsibility. I accept my responsibilities and I will be held accountable.
As an educator, having a vision is important. We have a great responsibility to our students and to society. I’m privileged to be an educator, and part of my vision is to teach children not only academic skills, but social-emotional skills that will prepare them to master this concept of kuleana and use it throughout their lives.
This same personal sense of responsibility is naturally embedded in the work I do every day. I’m part of a community of educators who believe in the principles of the Responsive Classroom, a K-8 approach to teaching and learning which includes specific tools, strategies, and practices to help teachers provide a high-quality education to every student, every day. It’s not an add on nor a stand-alone program. These principles, woven into everything we do, how we speak, and how we model behavior, are based on research that shows a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning.
In Part Two of our series on Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), R. Keeth Matheny shares his experience as a high school teacher with a dedicated freshman course for SEL (see Infusing Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom for an advisory angle). How do you get started? What resources are available? And, in an ideal world, what should all students receive as far as SEL curriculum? These are just a few of the questions he answers in this episode.
Creating a classroom that includes social and emotional learning can start tomorrow. Join Minnesota 2013 Teacher of the Year Megan Hall as she shares tips and strategies for getting started.
For me, it all started with a simple chime. That’s how I first implemented the core practice of breathing — on purpose — into my classroom’s daily routine. The chime was a simple, calming sound to alert the students it was time to breathe. Sure, I felt a bit silly asking kids to bow their heads and mindfully breathe, but I did it anyway and, with each passing day, the chime and breathing practice were just part of our classroom culture — a routine I looked forward to throughout the day.
You can use a chime or any sound effect that unites the group for its mindful breathing moment — a quiet, peaceful, mini-break that brings calm to the classroom. Bonus: You may find, as I did, that it allows you to achieve a focused state of mind for your own thinking. Breathing practice has become a routine in my personal life as well.