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1. Community


Good morning students and staff and families and welcome to the week of September 14th 2020.

This is the first of our Monday Morning Holistic Social Emotional Learning Moments.

Our Holistic Social Emotional Learning theme for September is Community.

So, starting with a couple pieces of awareness.

1. This weekend was very challenging for our environment. Smoke. A shadowed sun. It is possible, that for you, as for me, air-quality prohibited many of the things I/we do outside that lift the spirit and strengthen the body and ease the mind.

2. This week school will start with a more rigorous academics. And this will be regardless of the very many students and families that had tech and mechanical issues that prevented them from fully participating in our strong start last week. For many teachers and students being back in familiar academic routines can feel safe and secure and comfortable. However, for some students the academic routines are familiar through the emotion information that accompanies them, guilt, inadequacy, stupidity, incompetence, fear, anxiety and then add to this the struggles can come with doing it in absence of a teacher’s physical presence plus the additional layer of technology that can in many cases be a barrier, not an aid. To paraphrase Game of Thrones, “Math, ELA, Science, History, they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top and that one's on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground . . . We're not going to stop the wheel.”

So yea, I have a lot of emotion information when making predictions about the week ahead.

The Holistic Social Emotional Literacy skill of self-awareness helps us to check-in on our emotion making, asking us to ask ourselves:

· What am I thinking?

· How am I feeling in my body?

· How do I want to express myself?

· How can I express myself?

Though I can notice a variety of emotion information, two distinct emotion experiences come to the surface and I’ll describe them each as “a part of me”. So, part of me looks to this week and recognizes that I am experiencing excitement and joy. Maybe I’ll just call it enthusiasm. I’m enthusiastic that we’ll get more time with students and more time connecting. I enjoy the learning we’ll do this week and I’m excited to share this with students and families. I feel energy in my hands and lightness in my chest and clarity in my mind. I want to express those feelings with smiles and share my enthusiasm with others. Because of my social awareness I know that expressing my emotion information in this way, is culturally appropriate for school.

Part of me though is also experiencing worry. Worry that not everyone is ready to make the leap into more rigorous learning. That though strong start was supposed to be about emotional wellbeing, for many it was more heavily a practice in the mechanics of emailing, checking Schoology, and taking surveys and though these skills are necessary to access academic learning and being able to manage these things certainly requires social emotional skills, I didn’t observe a great deal of explicit “How are you feeling about the process of remote learning” as much as the focus was on the pre-academic skill itself. When I recognize the construction of worry, I know that most often for me, the construction of anger is not far behind. I feel tightness in my fists, a heaviness in my chest, and I’d like to yell and fight. However, with my knowledge of social awareness, I know that this would not likely support my students, or help to welcome my colleagues, and though the energy that can come with the construction of anger can be very supportive to community wellbeing, the expression of it needs to be thoughtfully crafted, or else it can do the opposite.

And since our holistic social emotional learning theme is community, I will choose to use both parts of myself, the “joyful enthusiastic” part and the “worry angry” part in order to support my community.

In joyful enthusiasm I will recognize and express how wonderful it is to be back together, in whatever capacity we can be. How exciting it is to meet new people, to build new relationships. I love school. That’s why I work in it. It’s great to reconnect with friends. It’s wonderful it is to add new learning, to push our brains, to think and to rethink, to create, to edit, to recreate, to synthesize. Learning is everything. It’s what will help us fix our air quality, make our society more inclusive and welcoming, build better bridges, buildings, guitars, shoes, jokes, books, music. All of it comes from learning and I truly love it and I’m glad we’re back!

But similarly, in worry anger I recognize, not all members of our community are able to access this learning yet. Not all students have support structures that ease their access. Not all students are welcome in our community, not by direct language but by the indirect expression summed up in phrases like, “That’s just the way things are” or the sentiment, “my way or the highway”, bootstraps, all the things that implicitly confirm the fallacy of white normative thinking. Our district talks a good game about those furthest from educational justice, but I’ve yet to be invited to a meeting where curriculum and instruction were sitting down with behavioral health to talk about what that really looks like and until that happens, it’s not likely the institute is even aware that Wheel will continue to roll over those it wasn’t designed for.

So, I’ll hold both joyful enthusiasm and worry anger, and if I can hold both then you can hold both. And if we can hold both then our community can hold both. We can support the full spectrum of emotion information all the way from joyful enthusiasm to worry anger. These are not competing, they’re coexisting, in me, in you, in us. In fact, that’s a great way for us to start. When WE hold these different emotion experiences, WE can welcome folks who may feel these things or any variation of these across the fake divide. And when WE do that, WE can help many more people share a sense of belonging in our community.

And that is what community is. It’s all of us together. It’s the joyful enthusiasm and the worry anger. It’s not one or the other. It’s all.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can this week.

Until next Monday, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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