I always love teaching SEL* (Social, Emotional Learning), but this year has definitely thrown some curve-balls our way. Amidst the onset of COVID, SEL class saw some interesting changes. Not only was Zoom the new format, some very challenging topics began to dominate class time, and I had to reexamine how I could best serve our students. I consulted with Carla, our school counselor and dug deeply into her amazing library at school for ideas, visual aids, and relevant books to share with the kids. Carla has been so helpful in her guidance and support during COVID and these times of racial injustice; I couldn't have done it without her!
During COVID, as always, SEL classes begin with three deep breaths and some mindfulness practices; also save time at the end for any questions or concerns students may have. My goal is always to keep class positive, open, and a place where students can feel safe. I often give advice to help with any difficulties the students are going through. When we moved to distance learning, I found that some of the traditional SEL material didn't translate well via Zoom, so I started to read books aloud that were connected to the topics we were discussing and felt that this format really worked best.
Students are very attuned to what is going on in the world around them, and we found ourselves discussing complex topics, like illness and anxiety related to COVID-19 and the social unrest and racism that has been playing out in real time. Many of our younger students were very shocked to hear about how Black people are being treated in this country, while some of our students have been directly affected by COVID through the loss of some family members. These difficult topics are now at the forefront of our classes. We spoke very openly about it and I sensed that this was the best way to go about it. I’m sure parents are doing much of the same at home!
We had some emotional and very engaging discussions. I illustrated what was happening regarding the social unrest and racism in our country through the book Something Happened in Our Town, A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice. The book helped the children understand the struggles of what Black families experience regularly. This perspective allowed the children to start to understand the concept of empathy towards others. During these discussions, it was clear to me that our students are already so loving and kind-hearted, and that they deeply care for others. It’s a direct reflection of the love and support they get at home.
It is my job to do my best to nurture these positive qualities that already exist within them. It breaks my heart to think that people of color and other marginalized people have been suffering so badly and for so long. I sensed that many of the children felt this sadness upon learning about how prominent racism really is. As a result of what is transpiring in our world right now, I have revamped the SEL curriculum. I want it to better reflect the needs of the students and what they are now seeing and experiencing. Here are the topics I will touch on this year as we move forward with your children’s best interests in mind. Keep in mind that many of the topics will come up again during the year and won’t live exclusively in their monthly slots.
- What is SEL? A breakdown and REVIEW for our students
- Gender Identity and Expression
- Latinx stories and activities (Latinx Heritage Month)
- Indigenous People's Day origin and meaning
- Mindfulness/Meditation (touch on collective anxiety and how to process and best deal with it)
- Learning about diverse types of families/people with different learning styles/personalities/physical and mental challenges (neurodiversity)
- Social Justice and Activism
- Conflict resolution
- Anger management/Emotion regulation
- Native American Heritage Month/Learning about local tribes Oholone and Coastal Mi Wok
- Self Empowerment/Finding your voice
- Self esteem
- Black Lives Matters/Anti-Racism/Being an Upstander
- Growth mindset
- Feeling safe/dealing with anxiety/social isolation/fear
- African American History Month
- Understanding feelings in yourself and others
- Learning to respect others with different Socio-economic
- backgrounds and ethnicities
- Community Service
- Bullying/Cliques; Learning to be an upstander and standing up to others
- National Women’s History Month (Gender equality and equity)
- Meditation Part 2
- Empathy and Compassion
- Good Communication/Learning how to make a meaningful apology
- Active Listening
- Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
- The connection between Restorative Justice and Indigenous people
- Meditation Part 3
- LGBT Pride month (Compassion and understanding for ourselves and others)
- Climate Change
*Notes about SEL
S.E.L. stands for Social and Emotional Learning
The purpose of this class is to help students learn to understand and regulate their emotions, learn conflict resolution strategies, learn how to be empathetic and caring to others, feel safe and supported, and to find a comfortable place to be during these tumultuous times. My priority is to help our students get along well and bring out the best in themselves and in one another. Classes will touch on the themes above and will be age-appropriate. Some themes will be primarily geared towards grades 3-5. Class themes may also change based upon students' specific needs and struggles. If you have any questions please email me anytime! firstname.lastname@example.orgTags: SEL social emotional learning